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Some years ago, I had occasion to read Madeleine L’Engle’s book, A Wind in the Door. It’s about a young girl named Meg and her brother Charles Wallace. One day, Charles Wallace tells Meg that he has seen a drive of dragons in the broccoli patch. Meg goes with her brother to check it out, but all they find is a pile of odd-looking feathers. Later, Meg goes to the garden alone, and she has the terrifying experience of discovering that the feathers haven’t been left by a dragon at all. They belong to a cherub, of all things, an angel named Proginoskes. And there he is! Right in front of her. Now, this cherub is certainly no innocent looking, plump, little winged baby. Progo, as the children later come to call him, is huge, and he is all feathers and eyes and movement – frightening, unsettling even, in his appearance.

It is no wonder that, in the Bible, whenever an angel appears to someone, the first thing the angel has to say is, “Do not be afraid.” Those were the angel Gabriel’s very first words to Zechariah, weren’t they? Zechariah the old priest was going about his duties in the temple when “there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.” And Luke tells us that, “when Zechariah saw him, he was terrified” – just like Meg in L’Engle’s novel was when she saw the angel. In fact, Luke says, “fear overwhelmed him.” But the angel said…what? “Do not be afraid, Zechariah….”

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