How Can I Know This?

Zechariah. Elderly. Devoted. Righteous. Carefully carrying out his priestly duty, entering the sanctuary to burn incense. Focused on his duties…

I’m chuckling to myself as I think of it. How often I am focused on my duties. Keeping track of details. Attentive to relationships. Planning and managing… And like good Zechariah I am totally not expecting an angel to announce to me the joyous news that what I have longed for my whole life, prayed for over and over again, was about to be given to me over and above anything I could have dreamt of. “Your wife will bear you a son, and you shall name him John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth….”

You can almost hear in the angel’s words the blaring of trumpets in heaven by excited angel choirs…

And Zechariah deflates the joyful party with a question that can’t escape his tattered and sorrow-worn idea of himself: “How can I know this? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.” That question is repeated by every human being down through the ages at some point or other in their lives: “How can I know this?” How can something be different from what I have experienced in my life? How can I be sure before I commit? How is it possible that I could be happy? How is it that my life could be part of something bigger? How is it that I could matter to God after what I’ve done or what has happened to me?

Friends, this is what Advent and Christmas are all about! You matter! Your life matters! You are part of a plan bigger than you! You can bring forth joy! You can be happy again!

I am not talking about throwing a party for ourselves or pretending we have high self-esteem. I am talking about the Christmas mystery that God intervenes in individual lives and in the collective history of mankind. We are that important to him. And for that we can be humbly and gratefully at peace and filled with at least quiet joy.

So what good news of great joy has been announced to you in your life by angels—heavenly or earthly—that you have been slow to believe? Today, why not change your response to that of the Virgin, and tell God simply: Behold, I am the handmaiden of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to your word.

Contact the author

Kathryn James Hermes, FSP, is the author of the newly released title: Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments, by Pauline Books and Media. An author and spiritual mentor, she offers spiritual accompaniment for the contemporary Christian’s journey towards spiritual growth and inner healing. She is the director of My Sisters, where people can find spiritual accompaniment from the Daughters of St. Paul on their journey.


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