Summary: The ministry of angels to Christ followers.

Luke 1:5 (NLT) It all begins with a Jewish priest, Zechariah, who lived when Herod was king of Judea. Zechariah was a member of the priestly order of Abijah. His wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. 6Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. 7They had no children because Elizabeth was barren, and now they were both very old.

8One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. 9As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary and burn incense in the Lord’s presence. 10While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying.

11Zechariah was in the sanctuary when an angel of the Lord appeared, standing to the right of the incense altar. 12Zechariah was overwhelmed with fear. 13But the angel said, "DON’T BE AFRAID, Zechariah! For God has heard your prayer, and your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son! And you are to name him John. 14You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice with you at his birth, 15for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or hard liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. 16And he will persuade many Israelites to turn to the Lord their God. 17He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah, the prophet of old. He will precede the coming of the Lord, preparing the people for his arrival. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will change disobedient minds to accept godly wisdom."

We’re in the series "Christmas Calms Our Fears" and were looking this month at the four times angels appeared to central characters of the Christmas story with this message from God: "Don’t be afraid."

Last week we saw how the angel told Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary to be his wife. Today we’re looking at Zechariah, father to John the Baptist. The angel appears to him while he is doing his work as a priest in the Jewish Temple.

The word angel means, "messenger," but although they deliver God’s message, the activity of these celestial beings on God’s behalf most often goes unseen to the human eye. (They are mentioned in 34 of the 66 books of the Bible.) They mostly operate in the spiritual realm. But occasionally God allowed angels to appear in visible form. Their appearances are rare and therefore somewhat mysterious.

Angels were especially active in the earthly realm during the time period of the first Christmas. The case we consider today is that of the appearance of the angel to Zechariah the priest, informing him that the prayers of he and his wife for a child were going to be answered. The reason a guest appearance by an angel was called for by God was because this child was going to be so special, so integrally woven into God’s plan for the public ministry of Jesus. He would prepare the way for Christ.

In keeping with the theme of our current series we note that the angel told Zechariah, "Don’t be afraid." Last week we saw how the angel of the Lord told Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary to be his wife even though she was already expecting a child. In this instance, it seems to be the appearance of the angel that motivates Zechariah’s fear.

Why are humans afraid of angels?

I guess that question can be answered easily enough. Angels come from another realm. They’re characteristics aren’t familiar to us even though the Bible most often describes them as being very human-like in their appearance. Another thing, they don’t make public appearances that often. We also read in the Word of God that sometimes they showed up because God was using them as messengers of judgment, not just bearers of good news. Perhaps Zechariah feared the worst.

Satan plays on our fears. God and His angels tell us not to be afraid. We must choose who we’re going to listen to.

You might say, "Well if I had been Zechariah I wouldn’t have been afraid of an angel!" Really?

We probably shouldn’t be so quick to judge Zechariah for being afraid. How upset do you get when things happen in your life that you didn’t expect? How fearful and anxious and angry and depressed and discouraged do you become?

What has God been trying to teach you lately by letting the unexpected transpire in your life?

For whatever reason, Zechariah’s fear and alarm were definitely in response to witnessing the presence of the angel in the temple. Why is it that we are sometimes afraid of the very things that ought to bring us courage? Why do we sometimes shy from spiritual things?

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