Today’s Advent Reading:
USCCB — December 23rd

In Luke 1, the angel Gabriel silenced Zechariah after he doubted that God could give him a child. In today’s reading, God miraculously restores Zechariah’s speech after he names his son, John, according to the Lord’s command. Astounded, the neighbors waste no time rushing around Judea to spread word of the miracle. The Lord’s hand has made the mute speak again—it’s incredible news!

For me, though, the most incredible part of this story has never been the miracle itself, but Zechariah’s response to it. The Lord takes away his speech, leaves him to talk through hand signals and writing tablets, and comes back half a chapter later. Between the neighbor’s stares, the wacky hand gestures, and the frustrations of limited expression, that interim time must have been humiliating for Zechariah. He must have had to scribble out the embarrassing story every time someone asked about his condition. He must have felt incredibly humbled—reminded of his failure to believe God—every time he tried to communicate.

Yet when Zechariah regains his speech, he doesn’t shout bitter tirades or yell at God for making his life so difficult. The first thing he does is praise the Lord, the one who caused his humiliation in the first place. His lips are loosened, and they immediately spring into worship, glorifying the Lord behind their trials.

God may not silence tongues as often anymore, but he still humbles us through ruined projects, stifled plans, failed relationships, bad grades, bad days, and countless other disappointments. These valley moments make it easy to shake our fists at God, but Zechariah’s response to his humbling gives us an alternative.

Today’s reading from Psalms reminds us that God “teaches the humble his way.” Paired with Zechariah’s story, this insight helps us see humbling situations as opportunities to draw closer to Christ by prioritizing His plan over ours. Zechariah regains his speech when he names his child after the Lord’s command, not after himself. Even when the neighbors wanted the boy to take the name “Zechariah” after his father, Zechariah insisted on “John,” symbolically prioritizing the Lord before his own benefit. God loosens his tongue immediately after this act of obedience, and Zechariah responds by praising the One gracious enough to humiliate him in order to teach Zechariah His ways.

When we’re humbled—knocked down from pride and self-sufficiency—we’re forced to lean on nothing else besides God, and we’re reminded to put Him before the fleeting idols our humiliation takes away. Instead of shaking our fists, then, we should do as Zechariah does; we should praise the Lord for the opportunity He’s given us to more readily put Him before all else. We should see humbling experiences as chances to call upon His name and grow deeper in our knowledge of His wonderful ways.

This Advent season, as we celebrate Christ’s own humble coming into the world as our Savior, let’s remember the glorious opportunities the Lord gives us through humiliation. When we’re knocked off pedestals of worldly success and prestige, let’s loosen our lips in praise, using the trying experience to draw closer to God, to put Him first, and to come to a fuller understanding of His perfect will.

Lauren Spohn ’20 is an English concentrator in Currier House.