And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.” And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. “But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.” Luke 1:11-22
Zip it. Put a cork in it. Shut your pie hole. Hold your tongue. Pipe down. Shush. Be still. Shut your tater trap. Button it up. Lots of ways to say it but it all comes down to this – sometimes it is better to just be quiet.
That’s the pickle Zacharias found himself in. After being visited by an angel (and not just any angel but Gabriel himself) and listening to a discourse on his soon-to-be son John, and all the great things that he would do, and how it would happen, and how this is actually an answer to your fervent prayer… all Zacharias has for a response is “But I’m old – how can you do all that?”
We are presented with wonder on occasion in our lives. Walk up to the Grand Canyon for the first time and note that most folks have little to say – certainly nothing that adds to the scene. The first reaction to your newborn baby isn’t usually an intelligent sentence but a radiant beam of a smile. Speechless. And that is how wonderment should be responded to. When something overwhelms your ability to offer an intelligent response just soak it all in, enjoy the wonder and majesty of the moment. Zip it.
Unfortunately we as a species don’t do well with holding our tongue. Opinion is rife and with the 24/7 news cycle and hundreds of media outlets someone has something to say about everything all the time. And if you don’t like the discourse one side is offering just change the channel until you stumble upon something you like. Remember when television ENDED at night? Usually a stirring rendition of the Star Spangled Banner and then…. a test pattern until morning. When there is nothing really new to offer how about we turn it off for the night? We used to know when to shut up.
Unlike Zacharias. Or maybe we are just like him. Because in this season of wonderment we prattle on about the most mundane things. Facebook has made it possible for people to expose their most trivial behaviors. We can follow the shopping adventures of our friends, even know what they bought, hear about their cookie making, gift wrapping, office parties. An endless stream of narrative and plenty of commentary on the stresses of the season. As if we didn’t bring the whole mess on ourselves. Maybe if we would just shush and be still the stress would go away and be replaced by some of that aforementioned wonderment.
But Zacharias couldn’t put a cork in it and likely we can’t either. It’s almost as if we invent the activities, the stresses, the extravagant orgy of noise and light to cover up the simple truth that is being presented. Perhaps we fear that in the still and quiet of the moment we may encounter… that truth? And deep truth, profound truth, life-changing truth is not something we rush to embrace.
The angel shut Zacharias’ pie hole – he had to. To make him get it. To give him time to mull it over. To let Zach ponder the wonderment of what was about to take place. And maybe we should take a minute this week and be still. Maybe our endless stream of activity can be moderated a bit if we just pipe down. Maybe it is time to zip it and stare in awe, like at the Grand Canyon or a newborn baby, at what is really going on here. Because the stage is being set this week of Christmas for a most amazing spectacle.
Zacharias was speechless. And he stayed that way until God’s plan was fulfilled.
Maybe we can learn a lot from a man with nothing to say.