What would be the first thing I said or sang with unleashed tongue after nine months of muted attention? Fasting from words, what would be the one thing most needing to be said? Would it align with the benedictory song of Zechariah?
Rendered speechless by defying an angel, Zechariah’s silence becomes the amphitheater for others’ songs: Elizabeth’s songs while feeling fetal cartwheels. The new songs of Mary. The duet of the two women of different generations. The Shabbat and Shema songs now vibrating within him rather than beyond him. Bird song and breeze song. And how would his listening to the trampling imperial songs of the foreign occupier change in his silence?
Holding baby John, first word and melody is an eruption of praise, resonant in a new intimate political theology. In the silence, Zechariah has heard the tummy churn, the vibrations of longing within the soft innards of Holiness. The one who once retorted to holy messenger, “How can this be?” is now utterly convinced that tender mercy — the soft organs within the Realm of All that is Possible — responds to the cries of the peoples. Swaddling child, it is clear to him, maybe even to us, that the only path is to serve without fear.