how to prepare for Christmas: part I
Three angelic visits prepared for the world for the birth of Christ. Three times heaven touched the earth. Three times the earth tilted awkwardly under the weight of glory. Three times those that witnessed those angelic visits were thrown off-balance. It was intentional. Off-balance, it seems, is how you prepare for Christmas and the three angelic visits illustrate this. You begin the journey to Christmas – not by getting your bearings – but by losing them.
First, Gabriel appeared to Zechariah while he was burning incense in the temple, to foretell the coming birth of John the Baptist. Six months later, Gabriel was sent to Mary at Nazareth, bringing her the news that she would be the mother of Christ. And then, a few months later, an unnamed host of angels (presumably Gabriel among them) announce the birth of Christ to the shepherds in the fields. Three visits, three different recipients, but one striking similarity that teaches us how to prepare for Christmas.
On each visit, the angel uttered the same odd sentence, “Do not be afraid.”
Now on the face of it, you might say, “Well, what is odd about that? Angels are awesome, creatures, mighty and full of light. They are pure spirit from beyond our world. Of course the shepherds, Zechariah, and Mary would be afraid! It wouldn’t be natural if they weren’t.” But that’s my point: if God didn’t want them to be terrified, then why send a terrifying messenger? Why frighten someone just so you can tell them not to fear?
God could have delivered His message differently. He could have embedded it into a dream (He did this for Joseph) or coded it into a mathematical but discernible sign (He did this for the Magi). Perhaps a “still small voice” ? Even handwriting on the wall would have given them a chance to catch their breath. But why send an angel, and an archangel at that? It is almost as if God intended to scare them.
Over the next three posts, I’ll write about each angelic visit in turn. We’ll see how God prepares us for the Good News by first giving us a good scare.
Roger Edwards joined The Barnabas Center in 1991. He works with both with individuals and couples, helping people confess their need and embrace their available choices to lead healthier lives. Roger also teaches and leads discussion groups and retreats applying the Gospel to everyday life. He is a licensed professional counselor (LPC), holds a master’s degree in biblical counseling from Grace Theological Seminary in Indiana and earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is married to Jean and they have seven children and nine grandchildren.