Zacharias's Song or Benedictus, comes at the end of one of my favorite stories in the Bible. Before the angel Gabriel goes to Nazareth to talk to Mary, he visits the priest Zacharias as he is preparing for worship and speaks to him of the miraculous births of John and Jesus that are to come. Zacharias is terrified, but then starts to argue that he and his wife are too old to have a child and he asks the angel for a sign. Here is where we learn that apparently angels are not sterile, emotionless creatures. After taking the insult that his angelic presence is insufficient evidence and a further sign would be required, he replies, "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." Then the sign he chooses for all to see is that Zacharias will be unable to speak a word until the prophesies are fulfilled. I guess the moral of this story is if ever confronted by an angel face-to-face, try not to smart off.
When Zacharias regains his voice (and his humility) he speaks an inspiring commentary on God's redemptive purposes and the extraordinary events that are taking place. I'm amused by Zacharias' experience, but I can't say that I would do something any less ridiculous. I can just picture myself encountering an angel at church as I'm heading to class with my tidy Sunday School lesson all prepared. I would probably ask him to fill out a visitor's card and provide some contact information so that we could put him in our system. Zacharias is definitely not the only person who ever let religion get in the way of faith. He came around, though, and I can't think of better words than his to end this post. "By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace."