“When he (Zechariah) did not come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak.” Luke 1:22.
If I were Elizabeth, I would have knelt down beside my bed that night, and after my “Now I lay me down to sleep,” I would have whispered a special prayer of thanks. Not for the promise of a child in my old age. Not even for the special calling he was to be given. I would have whispered a special prayer for shutting up my preacher husband. Finally, after all these years, maybe he’ll listen.
Listen. Listen. Why is it so hard to listen? Heaven knows it’s important.
Detrich Bonhoeffer, in his beautiful little book, “Life Together,” tells us that the very first service that one owes to others consists of listening to them. Just as love of God begins with listening to God’s Word, so the beginning of love for one another is learning to listen.
So, it is God’s work that we do for our sisters and brothers, when we learn to listen to them. When we listen, we are, in effect, saying, “I care, I’m interested, you are important.” When we listen, we are helping to carry one another’s burdens.
All over, people are looking for someone who will listen really listen. What’s our response? Far too often it’s to give quick advice, judge, or talk, talk, talk.
I have this picture in my mind of mouths, all kinds of mouths, jaws hinged, and well-oiled prattling at one another and no ears, no listening.
What’s the resolution of this tragic farce? Perhaps, for a start, many of us could use the treatment the angel of the Lord used on Zechariah, one good long human gestation period of silence. And in that silence, listen.
Listen for the voice that Samuel heard, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” Listen to that still small voice that gently reminds us that we don’t need to prove our worth and value by the amount of verbal garbage we can up pile up in our three score and ten.
Listen to that still small voice that comes to us from Jesus the Christ, who listens to us, lends us his ear, love us, saves us, frees us, quiets us . . . and calls us to a ministry of listening; listening (really listening) to what others around us, and in our broken world, are saying.
We may never become a summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, world-renowned scientist or novelist, but we can become a listeners. And, in so doing, carry one another’s burdens.
In the name of Christ, listen, listen, listen.