8 Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, 9Zechariah was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense.

To “be chosen by lot… to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense” was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for Zechariah. Only once in his life would a priest have this privilege. Zechariah was probably nearly sixty years old; his chances of realising his dream were beginning to run out. Time was getting short; he had waited for so long.

Life involves so much waiting. I am always waiting for something. I wait for something to change, something or someone to come into my life that I hope will give me the comfort and contentment for which I long. I wait to get my way. I wait for the universe to begin to unfold for me in the manner I have decided it should.

For Zechariah the waiting is over; he is called upon to “enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense”. He will go into the heart of the mystery of his spiritual tradition. He will stir the glowing embers in the charcoal brazier, sprinkle fragrant granules of incense on the coals, then stand in silence as the smoke drifts towards the heavens.

This smoke embodied all the longings and heartfelt aspirations of the people who, even in their darkest and most difficult times, considered themselves to be God’s chosen children. In Zechariah’s day, this smoke represented the anguished prayers of a people longing for liberation and freedom. It was a sign to all those who saw it rising above the sanctuary, that the priest continued year after year to stand before God beseeching God’s mercy and love with a voice of faith and a heart of hope.

I wonder where I find witnesses to this spirit of steady faithfulness. What are the incense-smoke-signs that remind me that, even when things are difficult, I can still open my heart and pour out my longings to God confident that they are held in the energy field of love?

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What am I waiting for? What practices help me to allow waiting times to move me to openness and confidence, rather than resistance and resentment?

(Simao Rodrigues, Portugal – 1621 ‘O Annucio do Anjo a Zacarias’ 

(Alexancer Ivanov 180601858 Angel with Zechariah)