Christmas Frequent Flyers

"And she brought forth her firstborn son,

and wrapped him in swaddling clothes,

and laid him in a manger;

because there was no room for them in the inn

 ... as Joseph forgot to call ahead to make reservations."

(Luke 2:7)

 

The Christmas story we have all come to know, and which forms the basis for the Christmas holiday we celebrate today, comes from parts of four brief chapters found in two of the Gospels, those attributed to saints Matthew and Luke. St. Matthew's account speaks mostly of King Herod and of the wise men, while St. Luke's Gospel talks of Mary and Joseph, the birth of Jesus, and the visitation of the angel of the Lord to the shepherds in the field.

It seems angels were building up their frequent flyer miles in the months prior to and after the birth of our Saviour with their numerous trips down from heaven to Galilee and Judea, as we see from the following:

The first angelic visit, in Luke 1:11-20, was made by the angel Gabriel to meet with Zacharias, the husband of Elisabeth, announcing that she who "was barren" and "now well stricken in years" would conceive a child. This news left Zacharias "dumb, and not able to speak," and not only "because thou believest not my words" according to Gabriel, but also because Zacharias realized he had no health insurance to cover the hospital costs. Indeed, Elisabeth did conceive, and eventually gave birth to John the Baptist.

Meanwhile, six months into Elisabeth's pregnancy, "the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city in Galilee, named Nazareth," to announce to a virgin there by the name of Mary that she, too, "shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus." (Luke 1:31)

According to Matthew 1:18, "Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit," when the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph, telling him "fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife." (Matt 1:20)

That same angel of the Lord visited him again in Matthew 2:13 and again in Matthew 2:19, after Jesus' birth, first telling Joseph to take the mother and child to Egypt, and then to take them back into Israel, and then to relocate them into Galilee, until Joseph finally threw up his hands and shouted toward the heavens, "Will you make up your mind already! Oy vey!"

The angel of the Lord also paid a visit to "shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night," alerting them to the holy birth "this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:8-11) The angel was then joined by "a multitude of the heavenly host," the whole lot singing praises to God in the highest, and then signing a medley of show tunes, before passing a hat and eventually departing back to heaven, leaving the shepherds to ask one to the other, "What the heck was that all about?"

Merry Christmas ... and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Jack Sheedy

PS: Interestingly, in Luke 2:24, two turtledoves make their appearance, sacrificed "according to that which is said in the law of the Lord" as part of the ceremonies following Jesus' circumcision. I guess, better two turtledoves sacrificed than eight maids a-milking!

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