I take comfort in how prominent waiting is in the Bible. The Christmas story itself is full of waiting. The old couple Elizabeth and Zechariah knew waiting. Childless in their world was a social curse – “disgrace” as Elizabeth herself puts it. The blessing of religious leadership for Zechariah, a priest, was missing the sign of a blessed life: children. And along with all faithful Jews, they waited for their Messiah, for a restoration of God’s promise of peace made long ago. Waiting had both personal and communal implications. Life was incomplete.
Then Zechariah had a vision, an encounter with a holy being, an angel. They were to have a son!
Do things ever make you laugh or scoff in church, or reading, or prayer? “Ha! Yeah right.”
Zechariah, naturally, doubts. “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” Muted waiting becomes his lot. Until, miraculously, pregnancy is followed by the birth of the promised child. And then we get what’s known as Zechariah’s song:
|Nativity of the Forerunner|
“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.” Luke 1:67-79
With all his hope and confidence, Zechariah’s still proclaiming a future reality. Waiting is still his lot. His prophet son is still a baby after all. Romans still ruled. Peace wasn’t the path.
So why this preemptive song of hope?
We often think of waiting as a passive exercise. But it isn’t. For Zechariah, waiting wasn’t wasted. He wasn’t satisfied waiting for peace. Zechariah was preparing for peace.
This Advent, anticipating the Prince of Peace, how are we preparing for peace?
We long for peace in our lives, in our community, and in the our world.
And we wait for peace, perhaps even more this time of year.
May we join Zechariah, preparing for peace, committed through the gift of God’s love and salvation, to walk the “path of peace.”
Related: a story of waiting
**This post is adapted from my recent sermon, "Preparing for Peace"**