Luke 1:5-25, Monday after the Fourth Sunday of Advent
The chamber called the Holy of Holies was a perfect cube, 15 feet in length, width, and height, symbolizing divine perfection, I suppose. It was the innermost room in the Temple of Jerusalem, where the Ark of the Covenant reposed. To get to the inner sanctum, you walked through a dark, heavily draped corridor. Once you reach the Holy of Holies, a thick veil further curtained off the Ark of the Covenant. The chamber was so inviolable, in other words, that not just anybody could enter. The Law said: only one high priest may enter once a year, on the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur, the equivalent of Good Friday for Jews. Now since there were several high priests, entering the chamber was raffled every year; “draw lots” So when your name came up, it felt as though God himself chose you! And you didn’t just waltz into there. You officially prepared for it through a whole process of purification long before the day. After all, you were going to step into the holiest place on earth, according to the Jews. So, entering the Holy of Holies was a deeply sacred, tremendously historic event in a priest’s life. Pero dahil nga draw-lots, there were priests who lived and died without ever seeing their dream come true.
Zechariah is our man for tonight; an old priest. Malamang akala niya, mamamatay na siyang ‘di nakakapasok sa Holy of Holies. So when his name came up, he must have been breathless with exhilaration while waiting for Yom Kippur. (Incidentally, there was a legend that when an old priest entered the Holy of Holies, they would tie a rope around his waist as he walked into the inner sanctum. Oo nga naman. Sa sobrang excitement ng matandang pari, baka atakihin sila sa loob, mag-collapse o mamatay! In such a case, no one else could go in and retrieve the old guy because the rule was clear: only one priest once a year. Solution? A rope! By which the priests outside could pull a poor old man from out of there. Can you imagine?)
So, the day finally came when old man Zechariah walked stepped into the darkness and silence of the Holy of Holies. His happy heart must have wanted to punch a hole right through his chest, for a lifelong dream was coming true! What he didn’t expect was that not only one, but two dreams would be coming true that day. An angel said he would be having a son: the one dream he must have already given up on long ago, a son who would continue the heritage of the priestly family. Malamang matagal na niyang ibinaón sa dilim at katahimikan ng limot ang pangarap na ‘yon. At least, he still had the Holy of Holies dream to bank on as long as he was alive. But now! The fulfillment of both dreams! Kaya siguro napipi ang matanda! Transient ischemic attack: nag-mini-stroke sa sobrang galak!
Sisters and brothers, do you still have desires that God has not quite granted? How long have you had them? How long have you prayed for them, and how hard? As you wait for God’s yes, do you feel like you’re walking down a dark and silent corridor that you hope would finally open up to fulfillment, but right now, just feels endless? I myself have had two desires for my family. I’ve been praying for these intentions for many, many years. I’ve wanted to give up many times. Pero sabi ng isang kapatid kong Heswita, “Keep praying, Arnel. What is important is worth waiting for.” When I turned 50 last year, I realized that my two particular desires for my family weren’t anywhere nearing fulfillment. So, I stopped praying for these two intentions altogether, first with a bit of resentment. But little by little, with calm resignation. And very gently, very peacefully, I am now realizing that even though some of my dearest desires are left unfulfilled, I have no doubt whatsoever that God Himself is much greater, much bigger, and much more important than all of my dreams put together, than all of our dreams put together, in fact. Ni kailanman, hindi niya tayo pinabayaan ng Dios kahit na hindi lahat ng pangarap natin ay natutupad.
So, I figured, maybe my prayer shouldn’t be so much, “Lord, make my deepest desires come true,” but rather, “Lord, be my deepest desire, my dream come true.”
Back in the Temple of Jerusalem, the Holy of Holies was such a lonely place. Yes, it was the once-in-a-lifetime dream-come-true of high priests, but no matter what they say, what a lonely chamber it must have been, to be visited by one person only once a year, and only by men, by the way. Thank God there was Christmas! The real Holy of Holies was born! And while his manger was a lowly place, it was far from lonely. His family welcomed anyone who cared enough to come by—from shepherds to wise men. And as they beheld the child, they must have realized how the Holy of Holies was not a place but a person. And that person would grow up to be Messiah. And he would say all the time: “Come. Come to me. I am the fulfillment of all your desires…and you are the fulfillment of all of mine!”