Daily Devotion for December 17, 2012
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
Prayer for the Morning
Oh Lord, most heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who has safely brought me to the beginning of this day; I give you thanks for my creation, preservation, and all the blessings of my life. Grant that this day I fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all my doings, being governed by your will, may be righteous in your sight. Through Christ our Lord, I pray.
Prayer for Peace
I thank you, master and lover of mankind, King of the ages and giver of all good things, for destroying the dividing wall of enmity and granting peace to those who seek your mercy. I appeal to you to awaken the longing for a peaceful life in all those who are filled with hate for their neighbors, thinking especially of those at war or preparing for war.
Grant peace to your servants. Implant in us the fear of you and confirm in us love for one another. Extinguish every dispute and banish all temptations to disagreement. For you are our peace and to you we ascribe glory: to the Father and the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever and unto ages of ages.
Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you. And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you; to the end he may stablish your heart unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.
Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.
Going to church does not make you a Christian anymore than going to the garage makes you a car.
~ Laurence J. Peter
The Conception of John the Baptist
And Zechariah said to the angel, "How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years."
And the angel answered him, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time."
And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, "Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people."
Notes on the Scripture
The news is brought by the angel Gabriel. The lore of angels and archangels is charming, but most of what we think we know about them are legends? In the Old Testament, especially in the older parts, what we might call angels are simply manifestations of God the Father. For example, the "angel" with whom Jacob wrestled (see Genesis 32) was actually identified only as a "man", whom Jacob later identified as the Lord. Hosea, speaking of Jacob, calls the entity with whom Jacob wrestled both "God" and "the Messenger".
Much later than Jacob, though, Daniel encounters Gabriel (Daniel 8), who is not called an angel, but a man. Still, this Gabriel is a being separate from God Himself (in fact, in Daniel 8, Daniel can hear God giving Gabriel orders). And in Daniel 9, Daniel says that Gabriel "flies swiftly" — perhaps the only Scriptural basis for angels being depicted with great wings.
Cherubim and seraphim, on the other hand, appear frequently, in Genesis and in the more florid apocalyptic visions, especially those of Ezekiel, Isaiah, and the Revelation of St. John the Divine. They bear little resemblance to the angels in paintings and popular literature. For example, Ezekiel's cherubim have four faces (only one of them human), four wings, and feet like a calf. Isaiah's seraphs are fiery six-winged creatures.
As for archangels, only one is named in the Protestant Bible, the archangel Michael, and he is termed such only in a passing reference in the Epistle of Jude. Raphael appears as "one of the seven angels who stand and serve before the Glory of the Lord" in Tobit 12:15, which is part of the Catholic and Orthodox Bibles, but is part of the Protestant Apocrypha.
If you are now thoroughly confused, consider yourself enlightened. There is no nice, neat hierarchy of angels laid out consistently in the Bible; it is an invention of early and medieval scholars, trying to make the Bible more understandable and available to the ignorant and miserable people of the Dark Ages. But we do know that there is a benign and divine being named Gabriel, who is different from God but carries His word in person to Zechariah and, a bit later, to Mary. And there is no reason not to depict him as a beautiful man with wings, radiant in a white robe.