God is incredibly compassionate about our pain and patient with our doubt. It is his patience and goodness that draw us back into deeper levels of relationship with him.
In the chronicles of Jesus’ first advent are tucked two stories of angelic visits that have similar overtones but completely different results. Both stories are found in the first chapter of Luke, and both involve an angel named Gabriel delivering messages of miraculous occurrences to two separate people.
First, of the priest named Zechariah, Luke tells us (in Luke 1:5-20) that Gabriel broke the news to the aged priest that he and his wife, Elizabeth, would have a son in spite of being in their older years, and that they were to name him John. John’s assignment would be to prepare the way for the long-awaited Jewish Messiah.
Zechariah’s response is a simple and completely understandable question:
In Luke 1:26-38, Gabriel visits Mary to announce that she, a virgin, would conceive and bear a son. Her response to Gabriel, in a nutshell, is:
Two people, visited separately by the same angel, offering the same question in response to the prophecy of the miraculous: How?
But Gabriel’s response to each of them is quite different.
What if Gabriel silenced Zechariah not as some kind of punishment, but because that was the most compassionate way to respond to Zechariah in this season of his life?
Zechariah’s story reminds me that God is incredibly patient!