Short Meds in Getting Ready in Covid-Advent: 6. An Angel?
Lk 1:11 “Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him.”
Let’s be honest, we read the accounts leading up to Jesus’ birth almost casually and we have our school Nativity plays and, I suspect, for many they are the equivalent of fairy stories or myths because some of the features of the accounts are just way beyond our experience or even of that of anyone else we know. This applies especially, I suggest, in respect of the angels who turn up in the accounts. Research further and you will find there are many accounts of beings who turn up without warning and then disappear without warning – angels who appear in human form who, the Bible tells us, are servants of God sent to minister to the elect.
So we are following the story of Zechariah as he goes into the temple to burn incense and suddenly an angel appears before him, an angel who announces he is Gabriel, one of God’s chief angels. We’ll consider Zechariah’s response to him in the next study but for now I just want us to reflect on the fact of his arrival, especially from Zechariah’s viewpoint – and no doubt that of any other priest serving at that time who would have felt the same.
This was definitely not expected to happen. God had been quiet for over four hundred years. Yes, angels appear in Israel’s history but for now??? Yes an angel had appeared to Hagar twice (Gen 16:7, 21:17) and to Lot (Gen 19:15) and to Abraham (Gen 22:11) and to Jacob (Gen 28:12, 32:1) and to Moses (Ex 3:2) and so on. Oh yes, angels had featured in the biblical accounts, but as we said nothing has been heard from God for over four hundred years!
So, OK, Zechariah is not expecting an angel. This is inside the temple, the so-called house of God, you don’t expect God-representatives to turn up in the temple, surely? So are you expecting a miracle in church today? Oh, come on, you don’t expect miracles in church surely? If that’s how we think, it says a lot about how low church life has sunk. And that becomes a challenge for all of us. Do we pray for the Lord to turn up today, in unquestionable ways, ways where there is no doubt – this is God! If we don’t, can I encourage you to start praying now. That is the challenge of this account: this man of God was not expecting God to turn up because it had been so long since He had. There had not been a prophet in the land for all that time. Four hundred years is a long time – think back to your nation’s history, what was happening four hundred years ago. And perhaps many of us feel like that, about our own lifetimes at least, we have known so little of divine power our faith level is low. We need to pray.