Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. Luke 1:11
The old geologist out in the desert had a Zechariah moment. He had been doing what his people had been doing for a long time. The land for a long time had looked dry, dead, flat, and dull. Dragging his tools up one more rise in the sand, he thought, “What a God-forsaken place this is.”
Then suddenly he saw it. Right next to him he saw the expanse of the Grand Canyon. Oh, my—there it was! The world as he had never seen it before. The sweep and majesty, the beauty he had only heard about. Now he could see it: the vivid color, texture, and depth of God.
Zechariah saw the angel after Israel had crawled through 400 years of God’s silence. For centuries God had not shown himself through miracles or prophets. That’s a long, dry, and dull stretch of watching and waiting for God to show something. Not surprising, then, if service in the temple of the Lord had become a bit mechanical.
Then Zechariah saw the angel. The sweep and majesty and beauty of God’s hand was visibly active in the land. And not just one angel at one time. God filled the dreams and draped the night sky with messengers people could see. When God was about to speak again in the flesh, he sent angels. When humanity could not afford to miss the gift, God sent angels. When we and all history needed to see the color and texture and depth of his grace, God sent angels.
But notice that the old man responded to this divine visible intervention into our world with doubt. “How can I be sure of this?” (Luke 1:18). Even seeing an angel is not enough?
God in mercy gave Zechariah nine months to think about it. God then let the old man use more of his senses—he would feel the weight of God’s promise kept in his arms. He would savor the joy. And finally he would learn from the angels to sing:
“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them” (Luke 1:68).
This Christmas, Lord, help us to see, savor, and sing the good news of the angels. Amen.
Rev. Brian Dose serves Martin Luther College as a professor of English.