Isaiah 2:1-5 Luke 1:5-20
The Angel Gabriel speaks to Zechariah's Fear
Nearly every time an angel appears in the Bible to speak with a human, the Angel begins with "Do not be afraid." I don't know if the words do any good, but I appreciate the announcement. To have revealed before one's eyes, an angel, is startling and terrifying. Yes, we would be afraid.
Zechariah's need for a calming word and assurance is increased because of where he is. He is in the Holy of holies. This is God's room. When the priest went in to serve, he always wore bells on the hem of his robe and a rope tied around him. If people could no longer hear chanting and movement or heard a thump, the person could be pulled out. No one dared to rush in. The room was cut off from everyone except the one appointed for that purpose.
Zechariah's need for a calming word and assurance is increased because angels almost always come to announce judgment. Had Zechariah sinned? Had Elizabeth sinned? This was most certainly in the back of his mind because they were childless. In that time and place that was often understood as an expression of God's displeasure. Was a judgment going to be announced upon Zechariah?
Then, when he hears the news about how he and his wife will soon have a son, his fears begin again. He needs the assurance of that angel. They are no longer young. Child birth is dangerous business. Then, to hear that his son will be a prophet. He can only speculate what hardship is waiting for his son John. So much to fear. So much to worry about.
As we draw closer to the birth of Jesus, we cling to the assurance that in our holy places, in our quiet places, the Angels, and the very presence of the Lord himself is near to us. The darkness of discord between peoples, and uncertainly of the future, and our worries for those whom we love, leave us exhausted, weary, and afraid for the things we cannot control or avoid.
Gabriel stands before us and says to us do not be afraid. Look to the one that John prophesied about. Prepare your hearts for the birth of the prince of peace. The one who is born for us. The one who promises to redeem us so that we may have God's love and peace.
All God's people say...Amen.