Wrestling with the angel

Jacob wrestled with the angel all night long. (Genesis 32:22-31) They were alone on an island together. The text doesn’t state whether Jacob even called out for help while he was wrestling. He didn’t get a chance to sleep that night because all night long he and the angel were wrestling. Towards the end of the night the angel touched him on his hip to make the fight stop. While this may seem like an unfair thing for the angel to do, I wonder why he touched him on the hip, and not somewhere else?

If the angel had touched him on the arm, the fight would’ve been over just as soon as touching him on his hip. You can’t pin someone to the ground with only one arm, or at least not very easily. It’s impossible or very difficult to throw them to the ground and hold them there. So he could have touched him on his shoulder and it would have been over just the same. Therefore it is very relevant that he touched him on his hip.

I propose that he touched him on the hip because Jacob was getting his strength from his roots. Jacob was relying on his ancestors and their faith (not his own, yet) in order to give him strength for this battle. The angel needed him to not rely on his own strength or on the faith of his forefathers. The angel needed him to trust in something so much bigger than him, something that he didn’t even know about yet. The angel needed him to trust in what AA would say is his “higher power”. And the Higher Power that the angel wanted him to rely on was God. He had to break his connection with his roots – his strength that he was getting from the past and from the present. He needed to make him learn how to rely on something bigger than himself, that very something that his ancestor Abraham relied on.

Jacob was very strong in many ways, but he hadn’t yet come to understand how much stronger he could be if he connected his power with God’s power.

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Resurrection morning

Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, Joanna, and Salome went to the tomb while it was still dark on the first day of the week, after the Sabbath had ended. They brought the spices and perfumes they had prepared to anoint the body. They were wondering among themselves how they would roll back the stone that was covering the entrance to the tomb.

An angel of the Lord suddenly descended from heaven, causing the earth to shake. He rolled back the stone door and then sat upon it. He shone with a brilliant light and his robe was snow-white. The guards were paralyzed with fear when they saw him. The women bowed down to the ground, amazed and terrified.

The angel said to the women “Do not be afraid! I know that you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. Why are looking among the dead for the living? He is not here – he has been resurrected! Remember how he told you when he was in Galilee that the Son of Man would be betrayed into the hands of sinners, be crucified, and will rise on the third day?” Then they remembered that Jesus had said this.

The angel continued, “Come and see where they put him. Go quickly and tell his disciples that ‘He has been raised from the dead. He is going ahead to Galilee – you will see him there, just as he said.’ Make sure you tell them this.”

The women, trembling with amazement and alarm, ran from the tomb to tell the other disciples the news.

MT 28:1-8, MK 16:1-8, LK 24:1-8, (JN 20:1)

The escape and return of the Holy Family

The flight into Egypt.

The Magi left, and an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to Joseph in a dream. The angel said “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the baby and his mother and stay there until I tell you it is safe to return. Herod is about to search for the child to kill him.”

That very night he got up, and taking Mary and the child, escaped to Egypt. They stayed there until King Herod died. This fulfilled the prophecy of Hosea who said: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

MT 2:13-15

The massacre of the innocents

Herod flew into a rage when he realized that the Magi had outwitted him. He gave orders that all male children who were two years or less who lived in and around Bethlehem were to be massacred. This was because the Magi had told him that the star first appeared two years earlier.

This fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah who said “Cries of tears and mourning were heard in Ramah, Rachel weeping for her children, and she was unable to be consoled because they are dead.”

MT 2:16-18

The return to Nazareth.

Herod died, and an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph while he was in Egypt, saying “Get up! Take the child and his mother and return to Israel, because those who wanted to kill the child are dead.”

Joseph immediately traveled to Israel with Jesus and Mary. While on the way he learned that Herod’s son, Archelaus, was king over Judea, so he was afraid to travel there. He was warned in a dream as well, so he went to Galilee instead and settled in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled the words of the prophets who said “He will be called a Nazarene.”

MT 2:19-23

Jesus grew up in Nazareth, becoming strong, wise, and filled with God’s grace.

LK 2:40

In his father’s house.

The family travel to Jerusalem for the Passover festival every year. When he was 12 years old, Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem while his family traveled back home to Nazareth. His parents didn’t notice his absence the first day because they thought he was walking with friends among all the other travelers. Then they began to look for him among their friends and relatives. Not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to continue their search. They finally found him after three days. He was sitting among the teachers in the Temple complex, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him talk was amazed at the depth of his understanding and answers. His parents were astonished when they saw him.

Mary said “Son! Why have you treated us this way? Your father and I have been worried sick looking for you.” Jesus replied “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know that I would be in my Father’s house?” But they didn’t understand what he was saying.

Then he returned to Nazareth and obeyed them, and Mary stored up this story in her heart. Jesus grew in wisdom and height, as well as in favor with God and people.

LK 2:41-52

Poem – can’t look at God

Look at all the people in the Bible who say
they can’t look at God
– to look at God,
they will surely die.

An angel appears and they
throw themselves
down to the ground,
protesting.

Where did they learn this behavior?
The angel never says
“Grovel, because God’s messenger is present”,
in fact,
the angel says the opposite.
The angel says “Stand up.”

Gideon, Joshua, Jacob,
to name a few.
Moses protested a lot.

They all said that they felt
unworthy
to look at the angel,
to be that close to God.

But consider this:
– the mere fact that God
chose to appear to you
is proof
that you
are good enough.

And consider this:
Mary
didn’t throw herself down.
Mary
didn’t grovel or whimper.

And perhaps
that is the difference.
Perhaps the Messiah
will come to all of us
when we realize
that we are worthy,
as we are.

Poem – I stand in the presence of God

When the angel Gabriel told Zachariah
“I am Gabriel,
who stands
in the presence
of God”
(Luke 1:19)
what he meant was
that while
he was talking to Zachariah
he was
at the same time
in the presence
of God.

Angels do not experience
our reality
in the same way
that we do.

Angels are multi dimensional.
Angels are quantum.
They are not in the same phase
of the space-time continuum
as we are.

When Gabriel is reporting
what God is saying,
he is hearing
it at the same time
God is saying it
and then
reporting it
to the person.

He is there with God
and here
with us
at the same time.
There isn’t far away.
There is right here
– we just cannot see God
because our senses
cannot usually
perceive something
that overwhelming.

God blows our fuses.

God is like trying
to play a CD
on a record player.

The angel is able
to take shape
in our dimension
and relate to us
the words of God
in a way
that we can hear
and understand.

However,
even though we need angels
to hear God,
(sometimes),
God can always hear us,
and always does.

The angel Gabriel predicts Jesus’ birth

Six months after John was conceived, God sent the angel Gabriel to a village in Galilee called Nazareth, to visit a woman named Mary. She was engaged to Joseph, a descendant of King David.

The angel said “Rejoice! The Lord is with you! You are blessed and favored among women!”

Mary was perplexed by his words and wondered what he meant by this greeting. The angel continued saying “Have no fear Mary, for God has chosen you. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and called the Son of God, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor King David. He will reign over the house of Israel forever and his kingdom will have no end!”

Mary asked the angel, “How is this possible since I have never been with a man?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and you will be overshadowed by the power of the Most High. Therefore this child will be completely holy and God will be his father. Consider this, your relative Elizabeth who was barren and elderly has conceived and is six months pregnant. Nothing is impossible with God!”
“I am a servant of the Lord,” said Mary. “May everything happen to me that you have said.” Then the angel left.

LK 1:26-38

Gabriel predicts John’s birth

There once was a man named Zachariah who was a priest in the Abijah division when Herod was the king of Judea. He was married to a woman named Elizabeth, who, like him, was descended from the priestly line of Aaron. Both were honorable people and followed all the commandments of the Lord. They were childless because Elizabeth was barren and both of them were elderly.

Zachariah was chosen by lot to enter the inner sanctuary to burn incense when his division was on duty in the Temple. The entire assembly stood outside praying while he performed this task. An angel suddenly appeared, standing to the right of the altar of incense. Seeing the angel, Zachariah was startled and a feeling of terror fell upon him.

Then the angel said to him, “Have no fear Zachariah, your prayer has been heard! Your wife Elizabeth will give birth to a son, and you will name him John. Both of you will be filled with joy and gladness, and many people will rejoice with you at his birth. He will be a champion of the Lord. He must never drink alcohol, because he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will convince many Israelites to turn to the Lord their God. He will serve God with the same kind of spirit and power of Elijah, and will transform the hearts of parents to be like their children, and the hearts of the disobedient back to the wisdom of the faithful, to prepare all the people for the coming of the Lord.

Zachariah challenged the angel saying “How can I know that this is going to happen? Both I and my wife are very old.”

Then the angel replied “I am Gabriel, who stands in the very presence of God. I was sent to tell you this good news. But because you didn’t believe my words, which will come true in due course, you will lose your ability to speak until the child is born.”

Meanwhile, the congregation outside was wondering why Zachariah was taking so long in the sanctuary. When he finally appeared before them they deduced from his gestures (since he wasn’t able to speak) that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He continued to work at the Temple until his assignment was over, and then he returned home.

Shortly after that, his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and she went into seclusion for five months. She said “Blessed is the Lord for taking away my public disgrace!”

LK 1:5-25