Scripture Reading: Luke 1:18-25, Genesis 18:9-15, Luke 7:18-28, Romans 4:19-21
My kids have never believed in Santa Claus. It actually didn’t ever really cross my mind to drum up enthusiasm over presenting them with gifts that I’d paid for but were “from Santa.” I think part of this pragmatic position came from having so many little people all at once. I didn’t want to risk stirring them up into a frenzy about anything, because I was so keen on calming them back down for bedtime—even at Christmas.
But I think some of them still believed in Santa anyway, because I remember the quiet, hesitant questions they asked one night as we sat around the fire, drinking hot chocolate. “Mama, did you hear sleigh bells outside…?” one asked, in spite of my sober pragmatism. I think they still wished there were a jolly old man with a twinkle in his eye who would come bearing gifts for them.
We are made for belief. We are born with an innate sense of something greater than ourselves. As parents, we try to pair our children’s desire to believe with the truth of the gospel. But as adults, we still get confused about where to place our own belief.
I guess Zechariah almost choked on the incense when he heard the angel’s message. “How can I know this?” he asked the angel. “For I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years” (Luke 1:18). The thing is, old people sometimes do have children—it’s rare, but it’s not that unbelievable. Plus, the message came from an angel, so you’d think Zechariah would have just believed it. But instead, the priest demands proof: “How can I know this?” He was literally in the temple praying when Gabriel came to him, yet he still wasn’t ready to believe.
Zechariah was silenced for his unbelief; the angel stopped his mouth from speaking even more unbelief. Zechariah asks for a sign, and the sign he gets is one of gentle rebuke. This is a great moment to admire God’s forbearance with us. When I object to His promises, when I am full of disbelief, He doesn’t strike me deaf and dumb right there on the spot. This is a mercy, because like Zechariah, I am keen for signs when I already have the answers.
However, by not being able to speak or share the angel’s message with anyone, Zechariah was better able to think. Matthew Henry insightfully suggests that Zechariah’s inability to share the news symbolizes the deficiency of the Old Testament’s priesthood, as compared with Christ’s priesthood in the New Testament, when He communicates the truth of the gospel.
The Old Testament teaches us by signs and gestures, giving us some picture of our salvation that is to come. But it is imperfect, like trying to get news from a man who has to speak using only gestures. In the New Testament, Christ speaks the gospel to us with His own lips and gives us the good news with His own flesh and bones.
We were made for belief, yet we are quick to disbelieve the most profound and resounding declarations of God’s own voice. Sometimes we have to hush our doubting lips for our hearts to find fulfillment and rest in God’s Word.
Thanks be to Christ for being both the Author and Finisher of our faith.