The sound of silence

reflection on Luke 1: 5-20

Silence can be both deafening and disturbing for those who are waiting to hear, for people longing to know. Silence as the doctor reads through the notes and test results. Silence and hopelessness as we wait longingly to hear about someone we love, who hasn’t spoken to us for weeks, months or years. Silence that follows a blazing argument, as we reflect on what we have just said and the consequences of our actions. The silence of God as we seek guidance for the future. There are times when silence can be incredibly uncomfortable or deeply frustrating; and yet it can be unmistakably powerful. It is truly amazing how silence adds volume to the voice.

Of course, this leads to a further challenge: how to break the silence. How will I speak? What are the correct words to say? How do I prepare the listener to hear what needs to be said? We have developed phrases to help us break the silence: “There’s something I need to tell you”, “Are you sitting down?”, “I don’t know how to tell you this!” We break the silence with something that prepares the listener to hear our significant message.

Years of silence ticked by for Zechariah and Elizabeth, hoping for a blessing, the lifting of their shame and their longing for a future. Their experience reflecting the long term years of silence for a nation, hoping for a blessing, the lifting of their shame and their longing for a future.

God’s silence is broken on both the issue of childlessness and the future of Israel with the words, “Do not be afraid…for your prayer has been heard” Luke1:13. These deeply personal words are also words to Zechariah, as the representative of the people of God on that day. Luke records for us the breaking of God’s silence after 400 years, with a transitional story deeply linked to moments in Israel’s past but also pointing to God’s future global plan of salvation. The outstanding question is, ‘will the listeners have ears to hear an ready to respond to his voice?’

In this season of anticipation, may you have patience in your waiting, persistence in your praying, time and space for listening with faith, to respond to the silence and to God’s voice.

Rev Alan Donaldson

General Director

Baptist Union of Scotland