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Angels That We Have Heard Upon High

For the past two thousand years, the Christmas story has been passed down from generation to generation. Though the news it presents is clear-cut and complete, its nature is complicated and complex—for within the confines of its simplicity, there are certain conditions and circumstance that has created conflict between man and the message; between those retelling the story and those receiving it, and between its simplicity and its sophistication.

Let’s consider some of the events and elements evolving around them. If you will recall, the Christmas story actually begins before the beginning of time. The Bible says that even before the foundation of the world was laid, God planned that His Son would be slain for the sins of mankind. Commencing in Genesis 3 and continuing on through the Old Testament, God’s plan for reconciliation, redemption, and restoration was preached unto the people—prophecy after prophecy professed the Messiah’s eminent coming, pronounced His extraordinary birth, and proclaimed His excruciating death.

Then, having spoken His plan and promise, there was a span of silence for over 400 years—from Micah’s prophesy to Mary’s pregnancy.  It’s interesting to note that the time between Micah’s prophesy to Mary’s pregnancy is equivalent to the period of time between Joseph’s command to defend the children of Israel to Moses’ call to deliver them. In both situations, God’s voice remained silent. Just as the Jewish community must have felt abandoned by God during their time of captivity, so too, did they prior to the conception of Christ. There were no preachers, no prophecies, therefore no promises.

Having not heard from the Lord for over 400 years, the children of Israel probably forgot about God’s promise of a Prince and His plan for peace. Yet, having not spoken for so long, the silence is finally shattered and God speaks—He once again announces His plan to the world. However, whereas in the past He spoke through the preachers and prophets, this time He announces His plan and His presence through His heavenly hosts—angels.

The angels first appear to Elisabeth, Mary’s cousin, and Zacharias, her husband. Their contributions to the Christmas story is often flouted by and often forgotten by the coming of the Christ child. Yet, we must remember that while the prophets predicted the coming Messiah, so too, did they prophesy His messenger. In Isaiah 40:3, we read God’s plan for the son to be born of Elisabeth—John the Baptist. We read:

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our Lord.

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Zacharias and Elisabeth symbolizes the Old Testament—Luke writes in chapter one verses 6-7:

And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless

And they had no child, because Elisabeth was barren, and they were both now well stricken in years.

It is important to note that the purpose of the Old Testament was to prepare the way for the Lord. It portrait of man is that of and it points to man’s need for a Savior.

Then there is Mary and Joseph—they, through the birth of Christ—signifies the fulfillment of the prophecies foretold. Mary, unlike Elisabeth, is young and pure. Though she is espoused to Joseph—she has not known a man intimately. In Luke 1:24, Mary, in her innocence, asks the angel Gabriel: