But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.” (Luke 1:13,14)
Have you ever noticed how often a messenger of God starts with the words “be not afraid”? How majestic and terrible it must be, how amazing and wonderful.
God has spoken to us, and continues to speak to us. Often the words of God come through the living word of the Bible, sometimes through the prayers and collects of the liturgy, and sometimes they come into the quiet stillness of our hearts. I love the liturgy that has been handed down to us; it contains years and years of beautiful prayers and services. But the liturgy can also become a mindless recitation of empty words. It is important, at such times, to again grow quiet. To listen quietly to our hearts, and to ask how we might reconnect with God.
Often the hardest words to receive are the ones that come through other believers. But when we share our needs and prayer concerns, sometimes it is in community that we feel the presence of God and hear the guiding and comforting words that bring divine joy.
As a child in Bible studies I learned that prayer is talking to God; as an adult I have learned that just as much, prayer is listening to God.
O come, O come thou Lord of might, who to thy tribes on Sinai’s height in ancient times didst give the law, in cloud and majesty and awe. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel! (Hymn 56)