December 16 – Hark The Herald Angels Sing

Previously, we met the angel Gabriel.  We have seen this same angel minister to Mary the mother of Jesus.  He also appears to Joseph and a whole host of angels appear to the shepherds.  I call them Christmas angels with tasks to complete.

“ In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.  The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.  But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”   The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.  Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.  For no word from God will ever fail.”   “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.”  Luke 1:26-38

Gabriel first appears to Mary.  The angel appears.  The angel explains.  And then Gabriel gives a tangible proof that Mary can hang onto:  ‘Since this has all happened to Elizabeth just as Gabriel said, so too can I [Mary] trust.’  And even before confirming that what Gabriel has said is truth, Mary responds with, ‘I am the Lord’s servant.  May your word to me be fulfilled.’

A happy occasion indeed.  But also, a lonely one.  Who is really going to believe that this young woman from Nazareth is pregnant by a virgin birth and is going to carry the long-awaited Messiah?  The Jewish people longed for this day and looked forward to it.  But since they doubted Jesus Himself in the flesh, I would guess they doubted Mary’s truth, too.  

But Mary didn’t doubt.  She had the appearance of an angel to announce it to her.

And what about Joseph?  He heard all this and of course was the first to doubt.  He had a plan that he believed was right and in kindness (he could have had her stoned to death) he has in mind to divorce Mary quietly.  So, God sends one of those ministering angels to set him back on the correct path:

“Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”(which means “God with us”).

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.” (Matthew 1:19-25)

Do not be afraid of the task God requires.  It is ok.  This is what you should do.

The angels appear yet again, and this time as a heavenly host and to bring the good news to a whole group. 

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flock at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you:  You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.  Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’  When the angels had left them and gone into heaven…”  (Luke 2:8-15)

The terrifying appearance.  The reassurance to not be afraid.  The message and communication of a task (where to find the baby).  And then the angels return to heaven to the presence of God, awaiting their next mission.  

We can be confident that if we are walking with God, willing and wholeheartedly wanting to do His will, He has a host of angels at His fingertips.  We won’t miss His way for us.  Their sole purpose is to serve us; to bring His message to us and to minister to us.  (Hebrews 1:14)  And whether we immediately trust as Mary did, doubt and need redirection like Joseph, or simply see the angels as a herald of good news, God will send them if needed.

Angels.  Found not only in the Christmas story!  (Hebrews 1:14; 13:2)  Go ahead.  See what Hebrews 13:2 says!

Our song for today is Hark the Herald Angels Sing by Celtic Women.

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