Advent: The Divine Silence Broken
Angels Announcing the Birth of Christ to the Shepherds
by Govert Teunisz Flinck, 1639
Waiting is a part of life, often an unwanted, unavoidable reality. The silence that comes with waiting can be deafening. The silence so real, we hear it echoing in our minds when we pay it heed.
Israel knew something about waiting. To a nation promised a Messiah by God himself, the wait must have seemed an eternity. Four hundred years had passed since God last spoke through his prophets to his chosen nation promising the Messiah King. Four hundred years of silence endured and still no Messiah. Four hundred years is a long time. A really long time.
I have to wonder if those waiting began to question, wondering if the old prophets had really heard God correctly. Maybe they’d gotten it wrong? Or, did the promises get relegated to an afterthought, as they lived out life day after day, all hope lost?
Not all the waiters gave up. Waiting in hope and expectancy, they responded with awe when the silence was finally broken. After so many years of nothing, a voice is heard, an angel’s voice speaking to Zechariah. Then, to Mary, Joseph and later the shepherds. Heavenly voices spoke, proclaiming hope to these faithful few; a hope for all.
I particularly love the story of the shepherds. In an instant, everything changed. What must have been a rather dull night in the fields turned into the extraordinary.
“And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.
But the angel said to them,
‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;
for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’
And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.’ “
Before their eyes the sky lit up, glowing with angelic praise announcing the birth of the Messiah – their Messiah King.
Did these men know the words of the prophets, that the Messiah would be called the shepherd of God’s people? Had they mulled it over year after year, as they watched their sheep graze? Did they wonder, “A shepherd? Really Lord, like me? Why? My closest friends are here in this furry flock.”
Yet the angels appeared to these shepherds sitting in a field in the dark of night. This is the only time recorded in all of scripture of the heavens opening up and “a multitude of the heavenly host” appearing to men. And God chose these men, these particular shepherds to be the ones out of all mankind to receive the angelic proclamation and invitation to visit the Christ child.
The angel’s words echoed in their ears as they rushed to see their King. Not a King in royal robes and shimmering jewels, set upon a royal throne, but an approachable, gentle newborn asleep in a manger with an audience these men could understand, a young couple and a bevy of animals.
Silence was broken that night, as the Word was made flesh with the ultimate message of hope. Not just for the shepherds, but for each of us.
May you hear the invitation of the God who loves you this Christmas. May you rush to His side and be filled with hope.
The silence has been broken. Love has spoken. The Word made flesh – Emmanuel.
“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart.” Isaiah 40:11
“But you Bethlehem-Ephratah, in the land of Judah, for out of you will come a ruler who will be called the shepherd of my people.” Micah 5:2
I’d love to hear what part of the Christmas story speaks to your heart most this Advent season.