Photo by www.boolanddesigns.com
As I read through the Christmas story this year, I am taken aback by the passages that describe the presence of angels.
Zacharias walks into the temple to offer incense to the Lord (and he was chosen by LOT among the multitude of Jews, so perhaps he didn’t even FEEL like doing it that day!). And there, as he is offering incense, he sees ‘an angel of the Lord’ standing to the right of the altar. Uh hellloooo! How freaked out would YOU be!
And what does the angel say, as most angels in the Bible do when a human sees them? ‘Don’t be afraid.‘ Obviously there is something about their majesty, their beauty, their glory that makes us humans tremble in fear!
But the angel assures him, gently, ‘Your prayer has been heard.’ What an awesome scene! Of course, I love how human the story is, because then Zacharias, despite seeing this mighty angelic being before him, responds with doubt and says, “Um. Dude. My wife and I are old. We are WAY beyond child-bearing years. How can that possibly happen?”
Then the angel, responds with boldness, and rebukes his doubt, saying, “I am GABRIEL, who stands in the presence of the Lord. And because you don’t believe me, I will shut your mouth until the appointed time.” And so he did.
But then look at Mary, the mother of Jesus, who was also visited by Gabriel (who is supposedly one of God’s right-hand angels, so he must be pretty darn intimidating/majestic), tells her that she will conceive and have a son! And she hasn’t had SEX! But note her response, similar to Zacharias, yet slightly different:
“How can this be??? I am a virgin!”
The angel doesn’t respond with rebuke but gives an explanation. Why? My guess, which is merely a guess, is that the attitude of her heart was different. She was, perhaps more like a child asking a question, full of wonder and awe. She wasn’t asking for a logical explanation, with a heart full of skepticism and doubt, but merely responding in awe at the seemingly impossibility of this message!
So the angel did not close up her mouth like Zacharias, but encouraged her and even provided an explanation.
And notice her response, which I find amazing: “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
Lord, may my heart be like a child during this season, full of wonder and hope and joy. May I respond to the Christmas story in awe, as I ponder the idea that the Son of God, the Christ Child, was born in a simple manger, in a dirty stable with animals, to come to earth to save us, to rescue us from our sins. He came not in power and might and strength, but in humility, gentleness and love. He came to seek and save the lost, those that saw their need for saving, those who recognized their sickness and their need of the true Physician. Thank you, Father, that you have revealed your truth to the little ones. Grant me a child-like heart of wonder and awe at your beauty, majesty and love. Amen.