Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, 9he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. 10Now at the time of the incense-offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. 13But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. 16He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’ 18Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.’ 19The angel replied, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.’ Luke 1:8-20When you are a minister, you aren't supposed to be full of doubt. You are supposed to have faith. To believe in the faithfulness and steadfast love of God. So when it's your turn to be in the holiest of places, you expect it to be like any other day you are there. You wish God showed up and let you know what you should do, but well it usually just ritual. You do all those comfortable familiar acts that you do. While the congregation may think that you are holier than they and that God falls on you. Usually you just pray more, study more, and get the chance to show compassion more. So their you are in the holy place. And God's Angel shows up. Really. There in this place where you may speak of God living, an angel shows up, in all his sparkly, glowing brilliance. The angel starts speaking telling Zechariah his pray has been answered. He will have baby. This baby will prepare the way of the Lord.
At this point Zechariah says how can this be. You know I'm old, and well my wife's getting on in years. Zechariah is doubting that it is possible for a baby to be born. After all it would take a miracle; they couldn't even attempt the modern medical practices. But as Zechariah gently put it, my wife is getting on in years. So Zechariah has a lot of doubt. Even if he remember the old story of Abraham and Sarah. They too reacted to the announcement of a baby by laughing and then taking on a a slave girl and getting her pregnant. But that was old testament times. God did those miracles and wonders long a go not now. So Zechariah had doubts. He was pretty sure that this was not possible.
The angel was not pleased and told hi he would be silent, he wouldn't be able to speak until what the angel said came true. From that moment Zechariah was silent. He had nine months to be silent waiting for the answer to his prayer.
I wonder if the lesson we are to take from this story is how to respond to doubt. Maybe we are to respond to doubt by spending time in the silence. Spending time praying without out words just listening and waiting. Maybe our doubt is not supposed to be replaced with certainty, but with a constant life of prayer.