My dear reader, a month before Christmas is the perfect time to tell this story. For the Birth was about a month away when our traveler made this journey.
Eight months prior, Michael left the heavenlies just as the Son entered the realm of man. His assignment was clear. Michael, invisible and unheard, was to watch over the divine Light, always on alert. His assignment to guard and keep the Son in this realm was an honor, and he diligently kept near Him every moment.
But today, Michael’s assignment expanded. Our esteemed member of the heavenly host, was called to the great city. The plan unfolding around it was intertwined with his. He was to check those plans and oversee them too.
As Michael stepped out of the house where Mary was baking bread, he stepped into a small street in Jerusalem.
He was struck with the darkness all around. He remembered the light in Zion from long ago, but that light had dimmed heart by heart for centuries. This darkness smothered hope and brought a weariness worn on faces all around.
Gentile rulers in the city of David were a stab in the heart to the people of God. After the darkness of the exile, God brought them home. His hand helped them rebuild the temple. They were destined to once again become a nation showing God’s light to all nations. But freedom never came.
Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans each had their hand in ruling over them. After four hundred years without a king, without self-rule, without a prophet, could the people of God really believe their restoration was complete. Most did not. The darkness throughout this once great city vividly displayed their belief that the exile remained. They were homeless at home. Faithless despair was all around.
As Michael arrived at the temple, he searched carefully for a certain young man among the pharisee students.
In one of the groups assembled on a southern portico near one of the Hulda gates, Nicodemus was deep in thought. He loved these days when he and his fellow students left the synagogue and listened to a scribe teach from his scrolls.
Michael first noticed him because of the light in him. He stood out from his peers whose minds were sharp but hearts were dark. Confirmation came only as he saw Sariel standing nearby. He joined the majestic being, inquiring why this pharisee was important to the plan.
Sariel explained that Nicodemus was appointed to a critical role, even though this pharisee himself did not know it. Sariel would steer him away from the darkest hearts and nudge him towards others of the light for he was destined to meet with the Son. This pharisee would not understand at first, but he would shine greatly in service to the Son.
The two looked closely at the light in their charge, for it was not a common sight.
But these celestial ones could clearly see that the light in this young pharisee was pure for it came from the Holy Spirit himself. Even now, as the scribe taught from writings of Isaiah, the light in Nicodemus grew just a bit. No angel could offer that, not even Michael. Only a humble heart eager for the deep things of God could reflect the light of Spirit. His light was still dim yet genuine. Nicodemus had much to learn and many divine encounters to experience, but Michael was confident that the path to the meeting was laid out well.
Michael turned and stepped into the great room in the house of Annas. A group of Sadducees were listening as Annas explained the results of his meeting with the Roman official. Michael was shocked at darkness around this group. Many were priests, yet had no light at all. Among these dark hearts was a young Joseph Caiaphas, who had married a daughter of Annas. These future high priests were each already more politicians than clerics.
Michael was well aware that the dark angels mingled among this group detested him, but dared not challenge him.
And he had no desire to disrupt their influence. He was now assured that these so-called priests would no doubt fulfill their role when they met the Son. Closing his eyes, Michael wept for the people led by such dark ones.
When he opened his eyes, Michael stood near the city gates. He watched as passersby carried on their business. The darkness outside the city was just as bleak as inside. Michael now realized that all of Israel was bound up in it. Then he noticed him, for his light was different. He seemed to glow.
The invisible one followed close behind Simeon, which was quite easy as the old man was steady but slow. The light around him was different. This one was not only faithful, he had hope. In a land of despair, among a people who walked in darkness, Simeon had genuine hope. Not like those who believed that God would restore them one day, this man of hope expected the deliverer today.
Michael was joined by Azrael, who watched over Simeon.
He explained that this devout one knew the scriptures well, and walked as blameless as any son of
Adam, but the glow came from his prayers. More precisely, it came from the answer to his prayers. Azrael spoke of that day, for he was there. As this man of hope had prayed, the Spirit of the True God summoned Azrael. Together they stood over him. Azrael remained silent as the Spirit began to whisper softly. At first Simeon showed no change, but soon his spirit stilled, his words trailed off, and he listened. Then the transformation began. The light in Simeon changed. It didn’t brighten, rather it spread. The light seemed to fill him, and then it began to radiate around him. The devout one believed the Spirit and began to reflect His light.
Simeon was now convinced that he would see the Anointed One with his own eyes.
Years of hope for his people become a daily hope for himself. Why he was chosen remained a mystery, but that he was appointed to see the Deliverer was certain. From that day to this, Simeon not only radiated hope, but he felt the Spirit often.
Michael realized the glowing one was heading to the temple to pray. And somehow, he knew that Simeon had made this a habit. And that this unknown prophet, when he met the Child, would proclaim the message just as ordained. Israel would once again hear from the Lord.
Michael turned around and stepped onto a hillside east of the city.
The camp before him was well hidden but closely watched by Uriel just the same. The group of men standing around a fire had strange lights within them. It’s not simply that their lights were dim, but that the light itself was different, somehow corrupted. They genuinely believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob but they did not trust Him or His plans.
Uriel explained that these zealots had lost all hope that God would deliver them, so they planned to expel the Romans themselves. And that meant they needed recruits and weapons, so they met secretly and planned. They were devout in ways of the law, but rejected the ways of the Pharisees. They despised the Sadducees for working with the Romans and for denying the resurrection. These warriors planned to succeed where the Maccabees failed. They believed that Israel, as God’s chosen nation, must once again show God’s glory to all nations.
Michael marveled again at the futility of man’s thinking.
But their misguided efforts would serve the Lord’s plan. Uriel would slow their efforts to peak just when the Creator ordained the persecution. But their zeal must spread enough to reach Jesus Barabbas. The vane zeal of that one was a crucial detail in the divine plan.
Michael had no need to check on the sky watchers in the east. Their diligence was as sure as the stars they watched so closely. They would see the star, the sign of a king, and they would come. So, Michael stepped into that familiar doorway in Nazareth where he stood many hours watching Joseph work.
Michael was not surprised when Gabriel appeared at his side.
This messenger of God had not only spoken to Mary, but visited the dreams of Joseph. And he would instruct him again when needed. The Light of the world would be kept from evil.
Michael explained to him how he had slowed Joseph’s work just enough to delay his plans. The census, as illogical as it was, had been decreed. Joseph would have to close his shop and travel to Bethlehem. But that meant he needed money. Money that came in too slowly for Joseph’s plan. He had wanted to travel sooner so they could return before the Child arrived. Now, the worst option was upon him.
Waiting in Nazareth for the child to come would make him miss the census, for after the birth, he would have to visit Jerusalem to present the child at the temple.
Only after that could he register in Nazareth.
That plan had to be discarded. Joseph’s only hope was to earn the money they needed and get to Nazareth before the child was born. As Joseph worked with passion and speed, he prayed that the Almighty would provide all he needed. Michael had no doubts.
Gabriel reported that other family members would arrive before Joseph. His uncle’s guest room, available to lodge traveling relatives, would be taken. They would have to humbly bed near the livestock. Michael once again wondered why the Prince he had beheld in glory and majesty would not only enter the realm of man, but endure the lowliest of conditions as well.
Our holy guard walked past Joseph and stepped into the house.
Mary, as usual had no idea the invisible one was there. As she was busy in her work, Michael studied the light again. As often as he beheld it, he still could not comprehend it. For there in the midst of her light was the indescribable glory of The Light. Within her womb, the Word incarnate grew as a male child. His Holy Light did not overshadow hers. It seemed to meld with it. Both were there, distinct and different, yet somehow, they were one, united.
Mary paused her work, and absent mindedly felt where the Child just kicked. She remembered Gabriel’s every word; she believed every word. And every word came true. She was a virgin and she was pregnant. Elizabeth, who was once wrapped in shame, was now renowned for her miraculous son John. But Mary spent much time trying to understand exactly how her son could sit upon the throne of David.
This child was indeed a son of David, but the throne of David seemed completely beyond possible.
Mary could not fathom that the son of a carpenter could become a warrior leader powerful enough to break free of Rome. But in these moments, she would remind herself of Gabriel’s words, “nothing will be impossible with God.”
Michael watched as she stared at nothing, deep in thought. But having heard her questions to Joseph many times, he knew she was pondering the Child’s future yet again. It always pleased him that through every question and every moment of silent contemplation, her light never wavered. Wherever her thoughts took her, she never doubted. Her light was sure.
Michael spoke what both he and Gabriel believed.
Their Lord had chosen well. The Light of the world was loved, safe, and perfectly in God’s will. The plans were set. The fullness of time approached. The darkness of the world, now pervasive in this promised land, would not stand.
For Gabriel was eager to proclaim what Isaiah long ago foretold,
Arise, shine, for your light has come. And the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
But that time was yet a month away.
Connect with the author, Albert Leon on Instagram