Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent
O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples; before you kings will shut their mouths, to you the nations will make their prayer: Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.
Today a priest named Zechariah (a name meaning “God remembers”), who himself is a descendant of Abijah, a descendant of Eleazar, the brother of Aaron, the great priest of the Exodus alongside Moses, goes into the sanctuary of the Temple. There, in that empty space, he likely brought to mind the grand history of the place, how the Ark of the Covenant that his ancestors bore through the desert once rested there, and how glorious the original Temple must have been. History and ancestry were deeply ingrained in the hearts and minds of the people in Jesus’ day, as both served to connect to the past ages when God made great promises and performed great feats for His people.
“God remembers,” and so did Zechariah; we are told he and his wife “were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly.” Because of this fidelity, of always bearing the Lord in mind and remembering His commandments, this humble priest became the first witness in what would become the great fulfillment of the promise God made to His people long ago: that He would send a Savior. He would be “the Root of Jesse,” a descendant of the father of David, the King of old. When Gabriel appears and tells Zechariah that God has not forgotten him or his wife and their desire for a child, he says that the child will “drink neither wine nor strong drink,” calling to mind the memory of Samson, the mighty judge, and Samuel, the child born to the barren Hannah, and it was he that discovered, anointed, and revealed King David to the world. The child is to go before the Messiah “in the spirit and power of Elijah,” stirring up not only the memory of this great prophet but also the promise of Malachi that in the days of the coming of the Messiah Elijah would return (Malachi 3:23).
But so astounded by this is Zechariah that he is rendered speechless by the angel, to ponder in silence all that God has promised to do until John—meaning “God is gracious”—is born: “before you kings will shut their mouths.” This princely man is silent before the coming of the Lord; the king, Herod, who would seek to devour the infant Messiah, would fail to stifle the Word-Made-Flesh. In spite of his great power he would be out-shouted by the silent Word, by the cries of a babe, and fade to nothing as the Root of Jesse blossomed to fill the world with the sweet fragrance of salvation: “…to you the nations will make their prayer: Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.”