've been perusing the beginnings of the Gospels lately, pondering the Christmas story. We're all familiar with it by now, but we also know it's good to remember. But today, this post by Shaun Groves helped me to look at the first couple of chapters of Luke in a whole new light.
Shaun reminds us that between Malachi and the Gospels--for 400 years--"not a syllable was spoken by God to his suffering children. No prophets. No miracles. Nothing but darkness. And waiting, remembering, believing."
Throughout the Old Testament, the Jews had seen God move: they walked through the Red Sea, were delivered from countless captors, had prophets and judges and kings who spoke with and for this great Yahweh. They may have run from him, they may have ignored his statues, they may have been a faithless people at times, but they knew God was there.
Until he (seemingly) wasn't.
Silence. For 400 years.
I can't imagine. I know a God who moves and speaks daily through people, songs, sunsets, words. But the Holy Spirit, to my understanding, wasn't a frequent visitor in those days. And so the people were living on the dark side of the moon.
And still they were seeking this God. The priests, we are told, were continuing in their duties. Luke tells us it was Zechariah's turn at the temple, and he, understandably, freaked out when the angel appeared.
Was it the first time in 400 years that God had spoken? No wonder Zechariah questioned, "How can I be sure this will happen?"
And then Luke tells us about Mary, going about her business, planning a wedding. Of course she'd heard the stories of her ancestors, but when the stories come to life, it only makes sense to be troubled and confused. And the angel speaks to her, too, about what God is going to do.
Can you see it there in Luke's story? The silence is breaking, the darkness is cracking.
By this point, we're not at all surprised that the shepherds were terrified when they saw the angel. But the time had finally come. God couldn't hold back any more. And there was no longer one angel in that field outside Bethlehem, but a host of angels; no longer silence, but proclamations and praise; no longer darkness, but the Glory of the Lord flashing all around.
After the darkness, the Light of the World.
After the silence, the eternal Word came to dwell among us.
Glory to God, goodwill to men, peace on earth!