The following is the fourth in a series of four Advent Blessings that I wrote for our weekly chapel services this advent season. I wanted to share these with you, as well.
They were known as the “Silent years.”
If we turn from the last page of Malachi to the first page of Matthew… it takes a tenth of a second? Do it slowly and it takes maybe half a second? That quick and simple page turn for us wasn’t quick or simple at all in history.
God had not spoken to His nation through a prophet for four hundred years. There had been no words, no revelations, no nothing. The silent years, indeed.
As more and more time passed the faith grew old. The stories drifted into myths. The voice of God grew more and more distant. I think some of us can relate to that. I think some of us may have been through, or are in the middle of, a period of silence. The voice that called us may be fading into memory, or perhaps myth. The stories of our youthful redemption drift farther and farther away from our right now. I think some of us can relate to silent years.
Some of us would give anything to turn the mundane into the meaningful. To find blessing instead of boring. To hear a voice in what had become a spiritual wilderness.
That’s exactly how Israel felt. Occupied by Rome. Governed by one of their own who had sold out completely for Roman favor. Where had the prophets gone? Where were the voices of salvation?
During those 400 years of silence, before the Roman empire conquered the Greeks, a king named Ptolemy II commissioned 70 Hebrew scholars to translate the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. They created a Greek document that gained such popularity that it reached all the way to the distant corners of the earth. Copies of this document found their way to South Africa, to northern Europe, and to the Far East.
The very word of God, once reserved solely for the Hebrew language and the chosen nation of Israel, was spreading to every religion, every nation, every culture and every expression of spirituality.
The world was beginning to get to know God again, in a new language and in a new way. Even more important to the story is that those silent years, which maybe were not so silent as they seem, were coming to a close. Because very soon, in a little village known as Bethlehem, the son of God would be born and the silence would be broken forever.
O Come, o come, Emmanuel. Break into the silence of our lives. Burst forth in us with new life, with new hope. Meet us where we mourn. Raise us from our lowest points. Fill us with light and life and love. And may we rejoice in your gift of salvation.