God’s people waited for Him to answer the deepest desire of their hearts. They longed for rescue. But more than that, they desperately longed to hear Him say something – anything.
Because God was silent.
Israel was a nation in distress. God called them His chosen people, but they found themselves living as slaves. Then they found themselves wandering around in the desert. They were oppressed and weary and waiting for rescue.
For years, the people heard God speak through the prophets, reminding them that He had not forgotten them.
“The people who walk in darkness
will see a great light.
For those who live in a land of deep darkness,
a light will shine.”
The prophets promised a Rescuer would come from the line of King David.
“For a child is born to us,
a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His government and its peace
will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David
for all eternity.” – Isaiah 9:2-7
But then, the messages stopped.
God no longer spoke through the prophets. He no longer reminded His people of what was coming.
For four centuries – many generations – God’s people heard nothing.
It looked like they were left in their longing.
Elizabeth longed for a baby. Just one baby. She desperately wanted to be a mother. Everyone wondered why she didn’t have a child. They whispered about her behind her back, and she knew it.
She didn’t understand. She was following God. She was faithful and had a pure heart. But still, God did nothing. She remained barren until it was too late to have a baby. It seemed like God had decided to ignore her deepest desires.
Then one day, her husband came home, his eyes wide.
“Zechariah, what happened?”
He waved his hands frantically, but didn’t say anything.
She knew he had gone into the temple to burn incense before the Lord while people prayed. It was a great honor. But why couldn’t he speak? Why was Zechariah silent?
She later learned that God had spoken to Zechariah through an angel. God spoke through an angel. After all these years of silence, an angel talked to Elizabeth’s husband.
“Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord… He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God… He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord.”
But Zechariah didn’t believe him. Why would he? They were decades too old to have a baby, so how could it happen now? Besides, God had been silent their whole lives. Why would He speak with this kind of announcement?
“‘How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.’
Then the angel said, “’I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born.’” – Luke 1:13-20
Weeks went by, and nothing happened. But then, gradually, slowly, Elizabeth knew it was happening. She, a woman old enough to be a grandmother, felt a baby stretch and grow and kick. And nine months later, Zechariah announced the birth of John.
John, the one born to declare the coming of the Savior. A new kind of prophet. He was born to tell God’s people help was on the way. It wasn’t over for Israel. They weren’t left in their longing. They just had to wait a little longer.
Shortly after Elizabeth held her baby in her arms for the first time, another new mother welcomes her firstborn child into the world.
But this mother is much younger, and she never planned to have a baby now. Before this moment, she was preparing to marry a carpenter. Gathering her things to go live in his home and be his wife.
But then the angel spoke to her.
“’Don’t be afraid, Mary,’ the angel told her, ‘for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!’” – Luke 1:30-33
And now, in the corner of a room used to house animals, she gives birth to a Son.
The whole world holds its breath in the quietest, stillest moment in history.
Until the baby inhales for the very first time, filling His lungs with air.
Until He lets out His first, wobbly cry, shattering four hundred years of silence.
Though an angel had spoken to Zechariah, and though he’d also spoken to Mary, this moment marks the first time in centuries that we directly hear the voice of God.
And when we hear it, it’s not a loud charge or a command. It’s a Baby’s confused whimper.
Though His cry is frail, and though His chin quivers as His limbs are exposed to the chill of earth, it’s a declaration of love.
To every waiting heart: I have not forgotten you.
To every doubting heart: I keep my promises.
To every mourning heart: I am with you.
To every longing heart: I love you.
To every heart, the Baby’s newborn cry is a love song.
A resounding reminder that God is with us.
What are you longing for?
What keeps you up at night, staring at the ceiling, wondering if your prayers are really reaching heaven?
What makes your heart ache? What causes warm tears to drip down your cheeks and onto your pillow?
What fills your dreams? What do you find yourself thinking about in the middle of an ordinary day?
Maybe you’re deeply lonely. You long for a husband, a baby, or even a true friend. You long to be understood, to be truly known and yet still deeply loved. You long for a lost relationship, to take back wrong words you’ve said, to find restoration, to feel hope again.
You long for true joy.
And yet, maybe God seems silent. Maybe you haven’t heard from Him in years. Maybe you’re wondering if He’s even listening, much less if He’ll ever answer.
When heartache holds on tight this Christmas season, look to history. Look to His story. See how, though the night seemed endless for God’s people, at just the right time, the Light of the world entered into humanity. Not how we were expecting Him to come. Not loudly and forcefully. Not relieving every pain all at once, but providing His presence to be with us in our distress.
Soft, small, and quiet. Gentle, meek, and humble.
A promise kept, though the answer looked different than expected.
Jesus is our Comfort, our Hope, our Answer. He is with us. He is the joy of every longing heart.
Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy People free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.