Words and Wonder
A devotional by Anthea Kotlan
I am a logophile. I love words of all kinds and sizes, and seldom can I say I am at a loss for words. Hence my love of writing. When I was in school, word limits seemed so unfair. I want to write more, not less. I also love conversations where words are exchanged in all the best possible ways.
It is not surprising that the Lord would have me raise two daughters who are also lovers of words and communication. Ironically, when they were growing up, my two girls feared one punishment most of all. To be given “a silence” and instructed not to speak. If either of them could not communicate for even five long minutes, it got their attention in ways that very little else did.
During December, many Christians around the world participate in Advent. The four weeks leading up to Christmas allow believers to anticipate the nativity and spend time in quiet contemplation and wonder. Many people prepare for Christmas by re-reading the stories surrounding Jesus’s birth. I can relate deeply to so many of these characters.
In these Bible stories, God used angels to tell certain critical people about what He was about to do. One man, who is given an essential assignment, is a priest named Zechariah. The apostle Luke describes him as “righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all commandments and statutes of the Lord” (Luke 1:6 ESV). He seems uniquely qualified for whatever God is going to entrust to him.
One day Zechariah was serving in the temple, and suddenly, everything changed. Let’s read about it in Luke 1:11-12 (ESV): “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.”
Zechariah reacted to the angel with fear. The story continues in Luke 1:13-17 (ESV): “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, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
Luke also explains that Zechariah was older, and his wife was barren. Imagine how surprising this news must have been. Let’s read more of this story in Luke 1:18-22: And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute.”
When Zechariah expresses both doubt and fear in the face of God’s messenger, he receives an opportunity to be quiet. His sentence of silence would last nine long months while his wife carried an exceptional child. Eight days after the birth, Zechariah would regain his speech just as his son’s name was declared John.
What was God doing for Zechariah during this season of holy hush? What wonders did God reveal during this set-apart time?
Perhaps God used this season of silence to strengthen Zechariah’s faltering faith. He likely spent more time in quiet anticipation than he ever had. Can a silent servant hear more from God?
How might God use silence in your life? Could you practice just five minutes in the presence of the Lord without any words? Could you stretch it to 10 minutes or even more?
How might God speak into our lives if we listened and stopped talking? What wonders would He reveal to each of us?
Lord, help me to seek you in silence in this season. Help me attune my heart to You and what You tell me. Help me to be quiet before Your throne and listen to Your voice. Allow me to hear the assignments You have for me. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.
Song of Reflection: “I'm Listening (Lyrics) Ft. Hollyn” by Chris McClarney. Listen to it here.
Born in the highlands of Scotland, Anthea Kotlan made her way to Texas as a third grader.
After studying the new language at length and mimicking the Houston locals, she found ways to blend in. Years later she floated down the San Marcos River, attended Journalism classes, and completed an undergraduate degree in in Journalism.
After getting married to Bill, she completed a graduate degree in English at Texas A&M. Ever the multitasker, she had two daughters and carried one of them into her graduation ceremony hidden under her billowing graduation gown.
Over the years she has served as a women’s ministry leader in several churches, spoken at women’s events, taught college freshmen English, lead various Bible studies and writes whenever she can on her blog.
Anthea makes her home in Conroe with her husband Bill, a bi-vocational priest and engineer, and spends all the time she can with her two grandchildren, Ian Michael and Margaret Yael.
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