Angels of Advent: Zacharias

The Angel Appearing to Zacharias, William Blake, 1799-1800

By luck of the lot it seems, I am here.

Carrying with me the burning desires of a nation, and my own unspoken longings.

Singled out and sent in, through the golden doors and into a holiness I’ve never before experienced.

The signs of His presence greet me – lamplight, bread, a golden altar, set upon the backdrop of a curtain whose nearness sets my hands trembling.

Powdered incense – are we not all dust? – is what I have to offer. Sprinkle the mixture of stacte, onycha, galbanum, frankincense, till the fragrant smoke rises and clouds the sacred space.

Is that the curtain breathing?

I stand in the stillness. One moment more, and my duty is done. I have always done my duty. Yet, still, there is this barrenness . . .

A flash of light to the right. My fingers grip the empty golden spoon. A form appears, the shape of glory and terror. Has my luck run out?

No – this is good news. News beyond my old age hopes, beyond the murmured prayers of the court outside. A birth! A turning. A readiness for One greater yet to come. A fulfillment, filling all the empty spaces.

But how can I be sure? How can I know this is not just the mist of some aromatic dream?

The next time he speaks I am dumbfounded. He says his name – Gabriel – and tells me I will be silent until my lips speak of what my eyes can see – my own boy, John.

All I can do is bow to my sentence. Time slips away and the angel disappears. I stumble, humbled, into the piercing sunlight, and into a dozen questions. Perhaps it is a grace I am unable to give the answers just yet. Premature.

I will let them grow within me, taking form like the child in my wife’s womb. I will stroke her grey hair with wonder, smile wordlessly, and wait.

Wait. His words are a fire in my bones – John, joy, gladness. Yahweh has shown favour. I will let them glow till they burst out wild on the day of deliverance.

Stacte, onycha, galbanum, frankincense. A dust flung to holy offering. Perhaps I am imagining things, but the scent still lingers.

{Luke 1:5-25}

S. D. G.








Lindsey Gallant
Seeker of God in the ordinary, bearer of beautiful news, pilgrim on a life of prayer.

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