Posted by Andy Sabaka

PictureCappella Tornabuoni, “Zacharias Writes Down the Name of his Son”

This is my second year seeking to give the gift of Advent Poems to our church. This first one is a meditation on Zechariah’s story from Luke 1. I’m hoping to write three more, one each on Mary, the Shepherds, and Simeon, all from the first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel.


Day one of his nine months of silence
Began as Zechariah entered God’s presence.
When he walked past the curtain to behold
Gabriel standing by the incense altar of gold,
Zechariah did what all who are not regularly
In the presence of such shining authority
Do: he fell to his knees, filled full with dread,
Assuming in moments he would be struck dead.
Yet Gabriel’s words were frightfully comforting,
Ringing off the walls like heavenly trumpeting.
“Zechariah, my friend, do not be afraid,
For the prayers you and Elizabeth have prayed,
Have been heard by our God, the All-powerful One,
And I tell you, soon your bride will bear a son.
His name will be John, a man set apart,
Filled with God’s Spirit, calling the hearts
Of all who will listen to make room and repent
Because the coming Messiah is soon to be sent.”
The announcement of who the promised child would be,
Never reached Zechariah’s ears, for all he could see
Was Elizabeth’s barrenness and how old they both were.
He was stung that the promise had come so long after
They had given up hope of any offspring.
The guarantee of a child brought back an old sting.
His fear of the angel faded, now replaced by disbelief,
Combined with renewed disappointment and grief.
He said to the angel, “How shall I know this is true?
Can’t you see we are old; our youth long ago flew?
So I hear your authoritative proclamation
But from the little I know about procreation…”
“Silence,” the angel said, and Zechariah obeyed the command.
“Gabriel is my name; before God in heaven I stand.
I was sent from there to give you this good news.
But since you have rejected these wonderful truths,
You will be silent until you see their fulfillment.”
And at the exit of Gabriel, Zechariah’s voice also went.
The crowd outside had been worried at Zechariah’s delay,
So when he finally emerged, they demanded right away
An explanation for all that had happened inside,
But Zechariah’s mouth could give none, no matter how he tried.
It was obvious to all that a vision had been sent
And those who heard of his muteness responded with wonderment.
Yet the response to Zechariah’s silence was nothing compared
To the way that everyone would stop and then stare
At Elizabeth’s pregnant stomach. How could it be
That a woman her age could possibly conceive?
So it was that dumbfounded silence was the reply
To Gabriel’s message that could no longer be denied.
Elizabeth named her child John the day he was born,
But everyone received the name with great scorn,
Insisting the name Zechariah was the right one,
But his father wrote clearly: “His name shall be John.”
It was in that moment of faith, when Zechariah obeyed,
When he showed he believed all the angel had said,
God reached down and touched the lips of the man,
Releasing his tongue to speak once again.
And when his voice first spoke after being dead for so long,
It rang out clearly in the words of this song:
Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, who has come to save
And redeem his people – a horn of salvation he will raise
And he will come from the house of David, his servant,
The one who the prophets said would be sent,
Bringing salvation from our enemies and great mercy
To our fathers before and to all who now see
The promise of Abraham fulfilled in our days.
We are free now to serve with no fear in the way
To walk in righteousness before the rising sun,
And in holiness from this blessed day on.
And you, John, my son, will be a prophet of the Most High,
Preparing the way for him – in the desert you will cry,
Giving the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sins
That the tender mercy of God has come here to win.
He will rise like the sun from heaven and shine bright
On those living in darkness, giving them sight,
Calling them out of the shadow of death to release
Their feet to walk in the path paved with peace.”
Our first advent candle tells us to recall
The miracle of Christmas and the wonder of all
It took for our God to prepare and then send
His Son to bring sin and death to an end.
Let us silently wait in this season pregnant with meaning
Until God loosens our lips to break forth with loud singing
About the rising sun from heaven who has risen again
And brings forgiveness and life to each of us when
We repent and believe that God can do
Any miraculous thing that he wants to,
Including save doubting sinners like you and like me,
Shutting our mouths, making us able to see.