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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.”
Angel: 1. A spiritual being believed to act as an attendant, agent, or messenger of God. (Oxford English Dictionary)
What did Mary see when the angel Gabriel appeared to her? What kind of being came with foreknowledge of a supernatural conception and with words that would change her identity forever? “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). How would the shepherds have described the angel with the glory of the Lord shining about? How could they encapsulate “a great company of the heavenly host” (Luke 2:13) whose voices poured out a sudden tidal wave of sound, a booming chorus? “Glory to God in the highest!” (Luke 2:14). How would Joseph describe his own encounter with the angel? Or what would Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, say about his angelic messenger? In the days leading up to the birth of Jesus, supernatural appearances and utterances were occurring like they never had before—an electric buzz of heaven’s voices among us.
The real meaning of angel is simply “messenger.” This reminds us that Christmas is about a message. It is a gospel—good news. The best news. And paving the way were powerful spiritual messengers whose very presence struck fear and awe into people. (No pudgy winged cherubs here!) Their mission and their message transformed humankind—and we have never been the same.
This year, any one of us can probably think of a dozen cases in which we’d like to hear a personal message from God. We’ve already received that message, however, and it is individually suited to each of us because it was sent to all of us. As the angel said to Joseph: “[Jesus] will save his people from their sins.” The angel’s message from that cold night continues to ring through the atmosphere. Centuries later, it is still as true as it was in its first utterance. In this mortal world that is at once full of wonders, yet seized by sin and darkness, we have been saved.
Prayer for today:
Lord, thank you for your message of hope and renewal, for your Son. Let my heart receive this message anew every day, and may my eyes be opened to your continued presence in this world.