Waiting While Doing
Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.”
Luke 1:8 – 14
Today and tomorrow we are going to journey with Zechariah as he waits for God to answer his prayers. I think the greatest fear we carry when it comes to prayer is not being heard. After all, not being heard can communicate that our concerns don’t matter and, subsequently, that we don’t matter.
This is where Zechariah finds himself as he goes to the temple to work his job. He had asked God to give him a child, and for years it seemed that God was not listening. I wonder if Zechariah ever felt forgotten by God. If he did, this must have been troubling for a man whose name literally means “My God Remembers.”
Imagine Zechariah’s joy when he heard Gabriel’s message: Your prayer has been heard. (Luke 1:13) This declaration is filled with hope. It reveals that during the long years of asking, God had been listening. And now God was giving his answer. A son was coming that would bring joy and gladness to many.
As we wait for Jesus’ second coming, this account of God’s attentiveness to Zechariah is an encouragement. It reveals that God isn’t distant. He isn’t unconcerned or uninvolved. I read a few months back about a girl from Manhattan, a senior in a private high school, who arrived home on Friday afternoon to find an empty apartment, a hundred-dollar bill, and a note from her mother saying, “Away for a long weekend. Be good.”
This isn’t what God is like. He doesn’t leave us some money on the counter and a reminder to be good. He is near. He is listening. And although his timing often isn’t what we’d like, he always answers in a way that brings gladness and joy.
It’s interesting to notice that when God finally sends Gabriel to share the good news that Elizabeth will conceive a baby, Zechariah is right where he should be. The angel doesn’t find Zechariah at the bar drowning his sorrow. Nor is Zechariah at his neighbor’s house complaining about God’s untimely timing. Instead, Gabriel finds Zechariah at the temple working his job. In other words, Zechariah didn’t check out. He continued on with his life. He took the next best step forward.
All this helps us to see that life doesn’t stop while we wait. We don’t get to set down our responsibilities until we get what we want. We don’t get to sit down on the journey until an angel comes. Instead, we must continue to live each day doing what God has set in front of us. And one day, as we are busy doing the next best thing, God will meet us.
So this Advent, go about your ordinary life, knowing that your prayers have been heard. God has been listening and his answer is coming.
A Moment to Reflect
What are the simple daily tasks that God has given you to do while you wait for Jesus to return?