The angel Gabriel visited three people when he announced the coming birth. His first job was to tell Zachariah, as he performed his duties in the Holy of Holies. Of all the people Gabriel visited, Zachariah is the one person who should have known he was talking to an angel.
Gabriel told Zachariah that he would have a son. His mother was to drink no strong drink during her pregnancy, as the child would be born a Nazarite. Zachariah was a bit on the shocked side; both he and Elizabeth were old. Elizabeth had thus far been barren, and was past the time of getting pregnant. While his difficulties in the belief department are natural, he was still struck dumb for not believing the announcement.
Gabriel’s next visit was to Mary. Of all the people in this story, Mary had the most to lose if the words of the angel were to take place. While she was betrothed, she was still a virgin, and could be stoned to death by becoming pregnant before all of the steps towards marriage were taken. She believed.
Joseph knew that he had not fathered Mary’s child. He was a good and honorable man. He didn’t want harm to come to Mary, so he decided to quietly set her aside. How could he take her as his wife if she had been with another man?
Gabriel came to Joseph in a dream and told him not to worry. Mary was still a virgin, and the Baby was the very Son of God. Gabriel encouraged him to take Mary as his wife and told him to call the baby Jesus. Joseph accepted this and did as he was told, though Mary remained a virgin until the birth of her Son.
When our children were younger, we often asked them questions about the three visits. Mary expressed doubt at the beginning of the conversation, just as Zachariah had. Why was he punished and she was not? Location is the answer. Who but an angel could get into the Holy of Holies?
That may not seem obvious, but it is very important. Before a priest entered this most sacred part of the temple, a rope was tied around his ankle. If the priest was to be struck dead while in there, they could safely retrieve the body. No one but the appointed priest ever went in, and only one person at a time was allowed in. Only an angel could stand there with Zachariah.
Mary was a young girl, probably around age thirteen. She would not have received the kind of education a priest would. She was taught how to keep house and care for her family. There was enough of that in those days to take all thirteen of her years to learn. Gabriel knew she would lack knowledge, and was ready for her questions. She had not only the right but the responsibility to ask them.
All of the candles on the Advent wreath are important. The Angel’s Candle can be a powerful tool to help your family understand the importance of this part of the story leading up to Christmas.