Thursday, December 06, 2012

Christmas Character Spotlight: Gabriel

In the few weeks leading up to Christmas, let’s take a step back from the decorating, shopping, and commercialism, and focus on the true meaning of Christmas - the Bethlehem story. One person at a time, we’ll go through the story in a character-study format, and try to put ourselves in the shoes of those individuals that were there on that first Christmas. Want to do some study for yourself? Here is the schedule:
November 29: Joseph
December 4: Mary
December 6: Gabriel
December 11: Shepherds
December 13: Wise men
December 19: Herod
December 24: Jesus
Today's character: Gabriel, the messenger sent from God

gabriel

The angel Gabriel only appears by name 4 times in the Bible. We first see him spoken of in a vision and then appearing to Daniel in Daniel 8:16 and 9:21. Both of these are interesting accounts, as Gabriel goes on to tell Daniel that he is “greatly beloved” by God.

Several hundred years later, Gabriel would again come to earth with a similar message, this time to a young, scared girl whose whole world is about to be turned upside down. He also appeared to Zacharias a few months earlier, announcing that Elizabeth’s curse of barrenness has been lifted. (Luke 1:11,19)

What was it like for the angels to come to earth? How must they have felt, leaving Heaven’s splendor, to come to this wicked sinful earth? I can imagine how thankful they are that their visits don’t last long!

There is so much mystery to us humans surrounding the angels. There is so much we don’t know about them, and often our view is skewed. We either envision them as Precious Moments cherubs, wearing nothing but a diaper and a halo, or we think of them as looking just like us humans, in ordinary clothes, only shrouded in light. Both views are a little bogus, if you ask me! We do know that Gabriel was sent from God’s presence as a messenger to earth - a direct line of communication between God and man.

Daniel, Zacharias, and Mary all had the privilege of knowing exactly what the angel Gabriel looked like. They all had something else in common - the fear that these visions caused in their hearts.

I imagine it would be quite chilling to have an angel appear to you, no matter what they looked like. In Bible times, angel appearances were not unheard of, especially for a priest like Zacharias who knew Scripture. He also knew that these appearances did not always bring good news.

Gabriel doesn’t take long in either case to ease Zacharias’ and Mary’s minds...he immediately assures them that his coming is with glad tidings. His coming brought fear, but also assurance of God’s plan. He came to begin the process of bringing light to the world, specifically to a nation under Roman bondage and Mosaic law, a nation who was looking for their coming Messiah.

Gabriel very well could have been the angel that appeared to Joseph as well, though he is not mentioned by name there. Joseph also had the unique privilege of seeing several angel appearances. (Matthew 1:20; 2:13,19) I wonder if he began to look for that angel to come before making any decisions…”God what should I do next?” Bam! Heres an angel to tell you. Must have been nice! :)

We don’t know exactly how things work in heaven, but what if Gabriel had decided he didn’t want to come to earth? (I know, there is no sin in heaven...but Lucifer rebeled against God, so I’m guessing Gabriel could have too, if he had made that choice.) What if there had been no messenger to proclaim the coming Messiah? The story would have been much different.

Likewise, what if today there is no one telling the truth about Christmas, that the Messiah has come to redeem all mankind? The story for many individuals will be different, depending on who is willing to tell them. Lets not be afraid this Christmas to, like Gabriel, proclaim the good news of Christ’s birth!

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