Advent is a series of snapshots: angels visiting ordinary folks, swords forged into plowshares, shepherds praying for help, babies showing up unexpected. Every year it catches us again, coming so soon after Thanksgiving, and bringing us chances to make food for each other, to pray for each other, to see in each other the arrival of an surprise child. Zechariah was no exception to the wildness of the holy story: he prayed in the temple, but when his prayers were answered, he didn’t have context for the answer. The answer was “wait a bit,” but he said, “No”, and so the angels suspended his speech. Ever resourceful, he called for pen and parchment, which probably made things worse for his relationship with the angels.
The call of the Advent season is both to silence and to voice, and therein lies our most perfect challenge. At the beginning, this year more than ever perhaps, we, with Zechariah, find ourselves struck by stillness, and this stillness brings us to a holy place. It may be that our fear has driven us here. It may be that the Advent story is so vivid for us that we find ourselves speechless. For Zechariah, it was that he had so much doubt that the angels gave his imagination a chance to catch up to his mouth. Whether it is fear or doubt or some other inroad that brings us to a stillness before God, we are lucky if we find ourselves here. And we are luckier still if we do not call for pen and parchment, but sit with God in the quiet, listening.
In our country, people have been rushing forward with hasty speeches and busy pens, but a bit of quiet is a good thing for us, as we reflect and seek our next steps. We are lucky that our tradition has given us Advent this week. It has the potential to slow us down, seek our deep selves, seek God’s deep Self, listen.
Of course the dynamic in Advent is also to be busier, bigger, more than any other time of the year. We spend more than usual, eat and drink more than usual, worry more than usual, and suffer for it. Zechariah may be our most perfect teacher. Perhaps we, like him, can feel ourselves to be called out by the angels for our doubts and fears. Perhaps we, like him, can take on the reluctant discipline of silence. Perhaps we can even suspend the instinct of more, and ask God’s goodness to fill us instead. And in the times to come, there will be speeches, and fine essays written by pens on parchment. I, for one, as the minister, would love to see where this will go for this congregation.
But in the meantime, I invite you to the Advent stillness that is our great summoning.
Join us for prayers, for rock climbing, for a book group, for healing, for silence, for worship. I would love to see you here.
Sincerely, Rebecca Pugh