Luke 1: 26-28
26 When Elizabeth was six months pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a city in Galilee, 27 to a virgin who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, a descendant of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 When the angel came to her, he said, âRejoice, darling! The Lord is with you!
Daniel 8: 15-18
15 Now, I, Daniel, needed help to understand the vision that I had. Suddenly, in front of me, there was someone who looked like a man. 16 I then heard a human voice coming out of the center of the Ulai Canal. He was shouting, âGabriel, help this person understand what they saw.
17 Gabriel approached me, and I was terrified when he came. I fell with my face to the ground. Gabriel said to me, “Know this, human: the vision is for the end of time.” 18 As soon as he told me this, I fell into a trance. My face was still on the ground. Then Gabriel touched me and put me on my feet.
God, Luke reported in a neutral tone, entrusted the angel Gabriel with the crucial message to Mary. (Luke first named Gabriel in Luke 1: 18-19.) But who was this divine messenger? The pious Israelites knew. They had become familiar with his name in the visions of the Old Testament book of Daniel. There, as âsomeone who looked like a man,â he brought messages from God to help understand the apocalyptic visions.
- What is your mental image of an “angel”? (If it’s a plump baby with short wings, you’re not alone. But that’s from medieval art, not from the Bible.) Hebrews 1:14 asked, “Aren’t all angels sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? How can you keep your heart and your perceptions open to all the angel messengers that God can send to you throughout your journey?
- Daniel said he met Gabriel when he “needed help understanding the vision I saw” and was praying. Mary, as far as Luke reported, seemed to be only going about her daily business when the angel approached her with the divine message. In what contexts have you had the clearest feeling that you received a message from God?
Keep me alert, Lord, that wherever and however your message comes to me, I can hear it, accept it, and act on it. Amen.
The journey: a season of reflections
Today’s Perspectives is Chapter 3 of The journey: a season of reflections, by Adam Hamilton. Copyright Â© 2011 by Abingdon Press, and available on our website for 24 hours with permission from Abingdon Press. If you would like to purchase the entire Reflection Book, you can Click here for a direct link to the Cokesbury sales page, as well as other Journey resources.
3. An angel named Gabriel
Luke 1: 26-29
In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he approached her and said to her: âHi, honey! The Lord is with you. But she was very puzzled at his words and wondered what sort of greeting it could be.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT ANGELS? A Washington Times poll found that half of all Americans believe it. * The other half was not so sure. If we are talking about little babies with wings that fly and shoot arrows in the hearts of lovers, I do not bite. If we think of John Travolta with giant wings as he portrayed Archangel Michael in a 1996 movie, I always say “No”. Clarence talks to poor George Bailey from the bridge in It’s a wonderful life starts to get a little closer to the scriptures angels, but skip the part where he gains his wings.
When we read about angels in the scriptures, it is important to remember that the word angel simply means “messenger.” Angels generally appear to be simply people – no wings, just people. Sometimes their attire is regal or glorious, but usually they are just strangers with a word from God. Sometimes they come in visions. But sometimes they come in the flesh. The author of the Hebrews notes that some Christians of his time, as they welcomed strangers, had welcomed angels without knowing it.
In our scripture, Mary was perplexed by Gabriel’s words but not by his appearance; that is why he appeared as a stranger who told Mary a word about God’s will for her life and who invited her to be open and willing to respond to God’s call.
To my knowledge, I have never met the kind of heavenly angel. But there have been a lot of people whose messages have changed my life. When I was fourteen, a man named Harold Thorson knocked on my door. He spoke with an electrolarynx (a device that looks like a microphone pressed against the throat, to allow speech to those whose larynx has been removed). He was door-to-door in my neighborhood, inviting people to church. Although I didn’t believe in God, I was moved by this man’s visit and I started going to church, and my life was changed forever. In college, I sold women’s shoes in a department store. Belinda came to try on shoes, but before she left she also invited my wife and I to visit the Methodist church she attended. We were looking for a church. His invitation and our visit to his church led to a call to be part of the renewal of The United Methodist Church. How different my life would have been if Harold Thorson hadn’t been door-to-door or if Belinda hadn’t listened to the nudge in her heart to invite me to her church.
There have been a thousand other messengers since then. I think about the pastors I heard preaching week after week, and how God spoke to me through them. My college and seminary teachers too. My wife has certainly been a messenger from God to me on countless occasions. And the church members I serve, like Nancy, whose persistent invitations took me to visit southern Africa years ago, a visit that would have a profound impact on my ministry.
Which brings me to a question for you: do you take the time, pay attention to what’s going on around you, and listen so you don’t miss the angels of God when they come to speak to you?
Today many of us are so busy, concerned, or in such a rush that there is no time to listen to how God is trying to speak to us. Imagine if Gabriel walked up to Mary while she was going to fetch water and she said, âI’m sorry, I’m really busy right now. Do you think you could come back later? Or if she had called him a nut when he tried to tell her about God’s plans for his life. And yet, this is precisely the answer many of us would have in our busy and preoccupied lives today.
God speaks through Scripture, through the sweet little voice of the Holy Spirit; but God also speaks through people (and sometimes heavenly messengers who are like them). Pay attention! Listen, lest you miss God’s purpose for your life.
Lord, thank you for the people you spoke to me through. Help me to pay attention and listen to your voice through those you send. Speak, Lord; your servant is listening. Amen.
* www.washingtontime.com / Accessed May 31, 2011