On the Second of Advent, the Song of Zechariah is appointed as a canticle in place of a regular Psalm. These words in Luke 1 are the first the ancient priest says after being struck mute because he doubted the angel’s announcement that his wife Elizabeth would conceive a child.
Zechariah and Elizabeth are minor players in the story of scripture, and yet I feel intensely drawn to them, especially in this season in the church and the world. They are devout, of the priestly order, dutifully keeping and tending to the regular rounds of temple worship year after year, eagerly hoping to see God do a new and decisive thing to deliver them from the surrounding darkness. Zechariah and Elizabeth sit on the threshold between what has been and what will be. They play their role simply by being faithful in keeping the liturgies and silently waiting.
That’s a good way of understanding where we are, too. For the better part of a year, we’ve been stuck at the threshold of a pandemic in its late stages, but so clearly not over. We are worn down, and while not quite mute, it’s hard to come up with more words to be a balm to us and others. I don’t know about you, but I want to have it figured out. I want the plan, I want the words to fill my own soul and even more I want the words, the plan, or the answers, to be able to strengthen and sustain you, too.
Instead, like Zechariah and Elizabeth, we have no choice but to let go, wait silently, and keep taking the next step, saying the next prayer, dutifully tending the temple of Christ’s body the church in whatever ways we can.
We pray the words of Zechariah day by day as part of the morning office as a way of rooting ourselves in God’s promise, and remembering God’s power to save. We pray this canticle this Sunday, and every day, to remember that no matter how dark and hard things can be, “in the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Watching, waiting, and praying for the dawn with each one of you,
The Right Reverend Craig Loya, X Bishop, Episcopal Church in Minnesota