In All That Jesus Asks: How His Questions Can Teach and Transform Us, Stan Guthrie wrote: “When it comes to religious matters, we all live in the ‘show me’ state. We are materialists like the apostle Thomas, who demanded physical evidence that Jesus had indeed risen. The atheists’ grievous mistake is not doubting, but prizing doubt over faith, when they should do the opposite.”
That’s the mistake that Zechariah made in today’s reading. Instead of trusting that God could do the impossible, he doubted Gabriel’s words that he and Elizabeth would conceive a son in their old age. Like Sarah, who laughed when God promised her and Abraham a son in similar circumstances (Gen. 18:10–14), he had too small a view of the Lord. His question “How can I be sure of this?” (v. 18) showed his weak faith. But God didn’t give up on him. Through all that would happen, Zechariah’s faith would be greatly strengthened—just as had happened with Sarah (see Heb. 11:11–12).
In Zechariah’s case, this transformation happened through God’s gift of silence. Gabriel told Zechariah he would be mute until the child was born (v. 20). This was a rebuke and a sign, but also a gift. Unable to speak (vv. 22), Zechariah in his cocoon of silence could focus on doing business with God.
Zechariah opens this month’s study, “Christmas: Good News for All.” We’ll be reading many familiar, Christmas-related Scripture passages, focusing especially on the godliness and courage of key characters as examples for us to imitate. The larger thematic focus is on how the heart of the Christmas story is the good news of the gospel. Throughout the study, we’ll be asking what lessons can be learned this holiday season to apply in our own Christian lives.