Daily Devotion for December 18, 2017
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.
Oh Lord Jesus, I come to you this morning, in this season of waiting for the feast of your birth, to ask your blessing on myself and all those in the world who wait for you. We wait now for your return, as the Jews of old waited for their Messiah; yet now we have the Holy Spirit to comfort us. But we know that Christmas will come, just as the prophets knew that you would come in the flesh; and we know that you will come, in clouds of glory to judge the living and the dead, and to take your faithful with you to a place where no tear will be shed.
We are like children waiting for their presents, sometimes. Help us not to be impatient, Lord Christ, but to wait as you have told us, showing the fruits of the spirit in every thought and work: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. And let us always have complete confidence in your return. Come Lord Jesus.
Prayer for Family and Friends
Blessed are you, loving Father, for all your gifts to me and those close to me. Blessed are you for giving me family and friends to be with me in times of joy and sorrow, to help me in days of need, and to rejoice with me in moments of celebration.
Father, I praise you for your son Jesus, who knew the happiness of family and friends, and in the love of your Holy Spirit. Blessed are you for ever and ever.
[Making contact with someone this Christmas.]
Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked will I return. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
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.
We Need the Promise
We must look to a baby born not with fanfare, pomp, and circumstance, but to poor parents in desperate times. Joseph and Mary, and the Baby Jesus for that matter, were real historical figures. But in a way, Joseph and Mary extend beyond themselves, beyond their particular place and time. They represent all of us. We are all poor and living in desperate times. Some of us are better than others at camouflaging it. Nevertheless, we are all poor and desperate, so we all need the promise bound up in that baby.
~ from “Peace: Classic Readings for Christmas” by Stephen Nichols.
Luke 1:18-25 (ESV)
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 rather than Biblical fact. 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 — well, actually, confusion is the proper result of education on the subject. People who think they “understand” angels are kidding themselves. 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 stands in His presence, who Luke calls an “angel,” and who carried His word in person to Zechariah and Mary. And there is no reason not to depict him as a beautiful man with wings, radiant in a white robe.