“In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee” Luke 1.26
When my aunt arrived at our house on Christmas Eve, you knew, just knew, that it really was the season of good tidings! Of course, as children we appreciated her kindness and thoughtfulness and affection. But we also appreciated her presents! Because they were always very good presents. And of course there were always board games to play on Christmas day, Meccano sets or Lego sets to build, and she was exceedingly skilled in all of these pursuits – or at least we managed to rope her into playing with us in some way or other. Auntie Iris meant – and means – so much to us.
When God wanted to announce important news to Mary, He didn’t send any old angel, He sent Gabriel. If Mary knew her Bible, Gabriel should have created an element of excitement and expectation – though Mary was a little overawed – in a grander but not dissimilar way to which the arrival of Auntie Iris created excitement and expectation for us on the night before Christmas.
When Gabriel was sent by God to deliver a message, it was a usually a message with gigantic implications.
The only other appearances of Gabriel in the Bible are when he appears on two separate occasions to the prophet Daniel, recorded in Daniel 8 & 9. On both occasions he comes with interpretations of visions that are about the future course of history. He also appears to Zechariah (Luke 1) and announces the future birth of John the Baptist.
In Jewish tradition, Gabriel is second in rank only to Michael, and is one of the four angels thought to sit around the throne.
Mary had found herself caught up in something that merited a visit from none other than one of the most esteemed angels in her religious tradition.
Christmas is far from a little localised religious event. It’s earth shattering. Life changing. World shaking. None other than Gabriel himself turned up with a message that would change the shape of history.
So get excited! If Gabriel is part of the proceedings it’s going to be something big. And that’s before we receive the present!