Christmas Characters – Gabriel and Other Angels

Christmas Characters – Gabriel and Other Angels

Daniel, Zechariah, and Mary are identified as having met Gabriel.  I like to think that Joseph, the shepherds, and the Magi also saw this angel who “stands in the presence of birth-of-johnGod.” This is a good place to note that Elizabeth is the only person in Luke 1 who did not see Gabriel; I think this speaks of her willingness and faith to do God’s will just on the witness of what happened to Zechariah.

Daniel is not a Christmas character but in chapters 8 and 9 of his book Gabriel is sent to him to explain visions about the end times and of “the Anointed One.”  In both of these meetings, Gabriel is described as looking like a man. (No, wings?!)

Different Dealings

Zechariah and Mary (and Daniel) had face-to-face encounters with Gabriel and spoke to him and asked questions.  God specifically had Gabriel do these appearances; Zechariah and Mary would have known the name and the importance of their meetings from the readings of the Book of Daniel.  Was it because of the importance of the message or to gauge their response that they had their face-to-face?   The assurance of Zechariah’s encounter would have boosted Mary’s faith and resolve when the gossip and the first meeting with Joseph happened.

Shepherds

They also physically saw angels.  I like to think Gabriel was the first angel to appear followed by the choir, but we are not told for sure.  They did not doubt, like Zechariah, but hurried to find Jesus.

Joseph

Joseph had several dreams with an angel giving him instructions.  I like to think that it was Gabriel in those dreams; because when he and Mary started to compare notes it would have built his faith and confidence.  Why Joseph did not have a face-to-face meeting I don’t know?  I am putting this in the “God knows how to talk to you” department and am glad that Joseph responded by doing the will of God.

 Magi

The Magi were warned (in a dream) not to return to Herod and share their findings.  It would make a great story if it had been Gabriel and they shared the warning dream with Joseph and Mary.  It would have boosted faith all around and given urgency to Joseph when he had his dream to flee to Egypt.

pics – http://www.freebibleimages.org/illustrations/

Christmas Characters – Mary

As I read the Christmas story looking at Mary the thing that most impressed me about her was that she served Elizabeth for three months.  However they were related, it was important for Mary to share this time with her friend and relative. (I do wonder if part of the reason for this visit was not to strengthen her faith for what lay ahead of her.)mary-and-elizabeth

The Cost

This trip came at a cost.  It was the first of four times that she would go between Nazareth and the land of Judah in nine months.  It is approximately eighty to ninety miles and she probably did the first two on foot; that would have been about a week’s worth of walking.  The journey took her through many of the historical sites of Israel and through Jerusalem.  Just walking would have been hard enough, even though she was young, but there were also the chemical changes going on inside her.  Another cost was her reputation!  She left Nazareth not showing that she was pregnant and came back with a three-month baby bump, you know tongues were wagging.   Joseph considered divorce.  Being stoned to death was a possibility. Just a little pressure for saying YES to God.

Mary and Gabriel

Mary was greatly troubled.  I don’t really blame her.  Suddenly there is a man in your room and he is happily greeting you saying you are highly favored of the Lord.  “Greatly troubled” is diatarasso it is used once in the New Testament and gives the idea she was very upset. When “greeting” is used elsewhere in Luke it is aspasmos which is just the concept of saying hello.   It seems that the entire conversation may not have been recorded but it would seem likely that Gabriel introduced himself as he did with Zechariah.

Mary had heard the Scriptures, she knew like every other virgin of the family of David that she was a candidate to carry the Messiah.  Now it was happening to HER!  Luke 3:31 cropped-jesus-2.jpgputs her in a branch of the family that came through Nathan and the only connection to the “kingly line” was with Zerubbabel and Shealtiel.  The greeting sounded like the one given to Gideon (Judges 6:12), who also had family trouble because he accepted the task he was given.

Pondering

Mary was a reflective person who considered her place in history by what God had given her to do.  In Luke 2: 19 she is “treasuring all of these happenings and pondering them.”  She would have been the only source of these happenings for Luke and Matthew.

Her song of praise in 1:46 showed a lot of thought and awareness of Scripture and the events of her time.  I think the week-long walk may have helped the composing of her song.

http://www.freebibleimages.org/illustrations/

Christmas Characters – Zechariah

Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, has two scenes in the first chapter of Luke but is still important in the life and mission of Jesus.  The good doctor Luke begins the Christmas story with him.  Not just as the father of John but as a time reference.  He is performing the priestly duties of the division of Abijah during the time of Herod.  We really are not sure when this was but Theophilus could have figured it out.

David in 1 Chronicles 24 assigned the two priestly families months when they would serve at the Tabernacle.  (For a small discussion of the families go to Samuel – Priest.)  These assignments would have held until the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem by the Babylonians.   This concept is applied again by Nehemiah when he was governor (12:17).  Abijah is one of the four names that are in both lists.

There are some loose comparisons between Zechariah and Abraham, but the notable difference is that he did not believe the news about a child being born.  Just for fun I reviewed the writings of the Prophet Zechariah and found a few light comparisons; mostly that the prophet also had angelic visits.  Zechariah’s (father of John) prophesy in Luke 1: 67 – 79 does carry some of the themes in the Book of Zechariah.

The fear Zechariah had while burning the incense (Exodus 30) possibly came from the incense_stickthought that he had done something wrong and was not worthy to be performing that duty. This fear started with the death of Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10 and Korah’s rebellion in Numbers 16.  I have read in a variety of places that the priest would have a rope tied to his ankle just in case he messed up and was struck down behind the curtain.

His reaction to Gabriel’s heavenly message was just one of unbelief, not a happy surprise; he challenged the reality that it would happen.  There could be many reasons for Gabriel stopping Zechariah from speaking, but stopping the spread of his doubt seems the best.  Also, his total silence for nine months adds to the importance of his real inclusion in this story, the birth of John.  The other three Gospels include John and his mission, but it is interesting that the only non-Jewish writer included the miracles and signs associated with his birth.

Nine months of silence and a visit from Mary prepared Zachariah for his final scene in birth-of-johnLuke when he confirmed the angelic message by naming his child John.  He joined the small group of people who are recorded in the pre-Pentecost time as having been filled with the Holy Spirit.  It is worthy to note that his prophesy started with the news of Jesus and then went to his son John.  That part of his utterance carries the words of Gabriel and Malachi 3:1.

Besides fathering John, Zachariah was the link to the priesthood informing them that something great was about to happen!  They choose not to accept!

http://www.freebibleimages.org/illustrations/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incense