The Annunciation

I wrote a post about the “Christmas Angel” a few years ago. It became topical again this week with the Come Follow Me focus on Matthew 1 and Luke 1. Here it is:

The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner

The happenings leading up to, and culminating with, the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ represent some of the most joyful, hopeful events in the history of the earth. But to appreciate these events a little more, I would like to look back to when things were not so joyful.

Sometimes we tend to look at our church callings and grumble. Surely some are harder than others. We can look to the pioneers and see those who had a difficult task, but I would contend that nobody ever had a more difficult task than Noah. Yes, Noah – the one that built the ark. Imagine having that calling.

You would spend your entire life calling people to repentance, with very little success. The Lord would instruct you to build an ark to save your family – because He intends to destroy the earth. So you and your sons begin building, while you desperately try and convince people to change their ways and follow God – as they try and kill you.

There are no takers.

And then the day comes that you, your wife, your three sons and their wives seal yourselves up in the ark, and listen as the rain begins to fall.  As the waters begin to rise, you know that every single person on the earth will be killed. Your neighbors, your friends, other relatives – all gone.

Eventually the rain stops, and the waters recede, and you begin again.

After living for 950 years on the earth, you finally die and find yourself in the Spirit World – in Paradise. But this joy must be dampened by the knowledge that those countless souls who perished in the flood are trapped in prison.  And in spirit prison they must remain, until the promised time comes when Christ comes to the earth, where he atones for our sins, and dies.

As Jesus’ body lay in the tomb, his spirit will visit Paradise and establish a way for those souls to escape that prison. But until then, there they wait – for thousands of years.

And then the long-awaited day finally arrives. The time of the Savior’s birth draws near. Can you imagine how excited you would be?

But it gets better, because in the Spirit World, you are more than simply Noah. You are the archangel that stands next to Adam in holding the keys of salvation.

You are Gabriel.

You have the sacred privilege of visiting the young girl Mary, and delivering the joyful message:

And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,To a virgin epoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David;
and the virgin’s name was Mary.And the angel came in unto her, and said,
Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee:
blessed art thou among women.And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. Luke 1: 26-31

Mary, in her humility, responds to the remarkable news just as you hoped – with faith. After, you get to visit Joseph and help him understand the importance of what is happening. He responds to the amazing explanation just as you hoped – with faith.

And so it begins. And you are right in the middle of it. How long have you waited for this to happen? The moment that had been thousands of years in the making is almost here: The Christ will be born.

I can’t think of anyone else who would find more joy in this simple announcement than the angel Gabriel.

He was a busy archangel to be sure. In ancient Grecian texts, Gabriel was the same angel that appeared to the shepherds on that sacred night, and warned Joseph in a dream to take the newborn Jesus and flee to Egypt.  We don’t know for sure if it was Gabriel – but I hope it was.

Now, when I see a manger, or a Nativity play, or a movie representing the Savior’s birth, I take a look at the angel, smile and think, “Attaboy Noah!”

Gabriel/Noah is listed in the LDS bible dictionary under “Noah”.

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  1. I read somewhere, that at the time of Mary, there were many girls named Mary, for the prophecies said that Mary would be the name of the mother of the Messiah. Parents named their girls Mary in hope that she would be the honored one. Can you validate this?

  2. You know, I was thinking of this post the other day as I finished reading the Book of Mormon & began again with the testimony of the prophet Joseph at the beginning again. Moroni had a similarly depressing mortal experience, so it’s such a tender mercy (& only fitting) that he got to be the messenger assigned to oversee Joseph bringing the record out of the dust to go forth throughout the world. We certainly believe in a God who metes out “compensatory blessings”!

    1. (Haha, I just reread your original post & noticed an anonymous comment that must have sparked that Moroni connection in my mind. So kudos to that anonymous poster — I’m not really trying to steal your credit ?)

  3. Kind of a slight shift in topic, but Mary’s response to Gabriel continues to amaze me. You mentioned being asked to do something difficult, but I can’t think of anything more difficult than what Mary was chosen to do. For her, I suspect Gabriel’s message was anything but joyful. Could anyone have faulted her for saying, “You know they are going to kill me?! No really, they actually going to kill me! Big rocks bashed on my head and all that!”

    Yeah. Not a happy day for her. It was a tender mercy for Gabriel to suggest she go see her cousin. She must not have had a living mother. Then, I think I read somewhere it was three months before Joseph worked through his issues with the whole thing and got an answer what he should do. Three months of a lot suffering for both of them.

    Her response, “Be it unto me according to thy word,” is simply stunning to me.

    1. I completely agree with how amazing Mary’s response was. But…I put Joseph’s response up there as well. “Let me get this straight: My fiancé is pregnant by God, and I have to ignore the law, Marry her anyway and raise someone else’s kid?”

  4. I talked to my kiddos about this last night. I’m less mature, at times. Somehow, Gabriel the Archangel became Gabriel the “Ark-angel”. I let it slide in hopes my teenagers had been given away to always remember who he is. Our family recently got news that our (my?) first grandchild is on the way. So we also spent more time on the visit to Elisabeth when her baby “leaped within her womb”.
    Gospel home study is cool. My family has been able to maintain consistent scripture study for the longest period of time ever (it’s only been about 1 year but I’m focusing on “consistent”) I know that my boys have made it easier for us as there is no weeping and wailing.

  5. Wonderful connections and ideas. A thought that makes the opening scenes a even starker, and the personal investment and joy later on for Noah/Gabriel and family is that he almost certainly had more than 3 sons before the flood. Those who rejected his message would have included a lot of family members. With that in mind it’s not surprising that God was the one who had to close and seal the door to the ark.

  6. I knew that Noah=Gabriel. and I knew that he visited Mary.
    I never thought about how he must have felt in being given that assignment.

    I have, however, often thought about how many of us participated in the choir of angels on that night.

Add your 2¢. (Be nice.)

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