God reaches out into the world in many different ways: sometimes through a friend, sometimes through the church, whether it’s a sermon or Sunday school or Bible study, and other times through scripture. God may reach out through a loved one or an event. Sometimes God speaks directly with a person, I know, I know, this is the method you would prefer, direct contact. People sometimes speak of being called.
Now and then there is that rare occasion where God intervenes dramatically, there was the burning bush with Moses, or how about when Elijah was hiding in the cave and the Lord passed by. God really made himself known when Paul was surprised by Jesus on the Damascus road. Sometimes God speaks through a direct visit from a messenger sent from God.
My name is Gabriel, I am an archangel. Now I might not be like the angel you have on your Christmas cards, you know having wings and dressed in white, that way you think we fly around easily since we are not limited by time or space. Yes, we are not part of the earthly world. You humans don’t know how to describe us, let alone understand us. I even see where you humans have classified us into four groups and you say I’m in the top group. Rest assured, we come in many forms and ways just like God does. Don’t try to box God in; don’t make the way He reaches out to you fit your mold.
People often complain about how God doesn’t respond to them, but the truth is, He does, but it often is not in the way you expect. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you have to experience God in the same way He does to another. The God we both worship and believe in is great but I can tell you that His majesty, the wonder of Him is even a mystery to me. Since you are limited by time and space I can see why you can’t always see as God wants you to see.
Sometimes I am called to help you interpret His vision. He also often sends me to announce good news, and in Mary’s case, sometimes the good news is hard to take. I’m telling you I even laughed at what I said to Mary, she was just a fourteen-year-old maiden. Think about it, coming face to face with an angel and hearing him say, “Don’t be afraid?” Wouldn’t you be afraid? You know my name Gabriel comes from a Hebrew word meaning “warrior of God” or “God has shown himself mightily”. If I live up to my name, Mary had to be overwhelmed, wouldn’t you be?
You have read about me before in scripture. God needed to give wisdom and understanding to Daniel. Remember? That was me. Talk about a man of faith; that young man would not give in to the king. Even after surviving the lion’s den, Daniel still needed reassurance that God was with him. I visited him twice. The first time was to let him know his world would be radically changed but God would ultimately have the last word. Daniel was glad that I visited him. Even now tradition says I will be the one who sounds the trumpet when Jesus returns. I hope that’s true because what an honor that would be.
Remember in the New Testament where I announced to Zechariah as he prayed in the temple, that his wife Elizabeth was going to have a son. That guy was shocked, you should have seen his face! Priceless! He and Elizabeth had prayed and dreamed for years to be blessed with a child, but he was getting really old and it didn’t seem possible to him. Have you ever noticed how with you humans, dreams just sort of fade away? Some things just never seem to be within your reach. Oh ye of little faith.
I got to tell Zechariah the good news, I told him to name his son John, and that he and Elizabeth would finally have the joy of a boy. Sometimes when I bring good news, God has me share the big headline and the small print, just like an ad. So I gave Zechariah the small print. Specifically, no wine or strong drink because the Holy Spirit would fill him instead. But as I told him, I noticed that he didn’t believe me. It reminds me of back when Sara laughed at God, now Zechariah was thinking “I am way to old.” So I had to make him mute until John was born.
Now you’re probably thinking, this is Christmas! I want to hear a Christmas story, not all about Daniel, and Zechariah and Elizabeth and John. I’m getting there, patience, you will soon see that all this was leading up to just that, Christmas. God was about to walk on earth in the form of His Son. Talk about good news, in fact I watched your youth TV broadcast two weeks ago and it was great.
Let me tell you my toughest mission was my visit to Mary, like I said a 14 year old youngster who had never been with a man yet engaged to be married and then I let her know she was going to give birth to the Messiah. She was in shock, you could see it in her face, she was overwhelmed. How would you have handled it? You know it’s one thing to talk about God, to pray to God, even to feel the presence of God, but to be told you were going to be the mother of God? I told her that her son would be great and be called the Son of the Most High. I told her he would be given the throne of David and that His kingdom would be forever. I also knew that her heart would be broken by His death on the cross, but through her tears she would see Him again. He would be the King of kings, and the Lord of lords, forever and ever.
You can read about the whole scene in Luke. You might even think the whole thing seems out of place, but have you ever noticed how God’s hand enters history and lives in some insignificant places and times? Some places that seem like nowhere, you know, it could be that small town just of the main highway, with one caution light, a post office a mattress store, and a gas station, several miles from big the city. God works just as mightily in the ordinary as the extraordinary. He chose to declare His entry into the world in a small village, Bethlehem. He didn’t even choose what would seem to be an important place like Rome. You would think that if God is so brilliant, he would have chosen Rome, or Athens, or even Jerusalem to make His grand entrance, but no, He sent me to Nazareth, to this young maiden.
So after my announcement to her, Mary submitted, you know she basically said “Whatever God says, I accept.” This fourteen year old forgot the most common prayer God usually hears at times like this, you know, “Lord, thy will be changed.” Instead the prayed, “thy will be done.” To see this young lady move from fear to faith, from uncertainty to calm assurance was truly a miracle. God changes history, he changes lives by people who are willing to be instruments of His will, who are willing to see beyond their fears of change of just doing it the same old way, and to have faith. How often have you wondered if God will provide, have you doubted his provision?
Have you ever wondered what would have happened if Mary or Joseph or both of them would have been so frightened or filled with shame that they ran and turned their backs on God? What we celebrate this season is not only the miracle that comes from God reaching out but also the miracle that God gives us the strength to respond to Him in faith.
I didn’t get top billing that night Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but I was there when He finally arrived. Have you ever noticed how long nine months can be? A lot happened to Mary during that time. She discovered the quality of man she was married to. Joseph didn’t run; he stood by her, though it was his will to quietly divorce her if it would save her from shame in public. But one of my fellow angels told him to stay with her. He even told Joseph the name of their son was to be Jesus, which means “the Lord saves.”
Mary and Joseph had to make the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, where Joseph’s family was from. They finally arrived and found the town overflowing with others ordered there by the Romans for the census. The only quiet, private place for Mary’s delivery was a cave that served as a stable. I got to be part of the heavenly chorus that brought the good news to the shepherds. I was there to witness the birth. The Messiah had come. God was with us! It was a real miracle!
You know today we seem to live in a world with increasing terror, chaos, conflict, self interest, simple selfishness and greed. May we dedicate ourselves to the message the angel brought tonight: “May there be peace on earth and goodwill to all.” Let there be another miracle as each of us finds the faith of that young, fourteen year old maiden and that faith then allows the Messiah to be born again in our hearts. Then we too can pray her prayer: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”