Monday, December 17, 2012

Gabriel the Angel

When we think of the Christmas story we often ponder those who were present…the Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, magi, but what about the angel Gabriel.  This is one of the prominent characters in the Nativity narrative. He’s remembered as the angel who told Mary she would give birth to the Son of God. But what else can we know about him from the Bible?  Here is a list….
  1. Gabriel is mentioned in the Old and New Testaments. He’s known for bearing good news of Jesus’ coming birth, but his first biblical appearance is in Daniel 8:16, when he is told to explain a vision to the prophet.
  2. Gabriel stands in the presence of God. This is how he describes himself to Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist (Luke 1:19). The Greek word for “stands” is paristánō, which means to wait before a superior. The Septuagint uses this word to describe how Joshua served Moses and how David assisted King Saul.
  3. Gabriel is one of only two angels explicitly named in the Protestant Bible. The other is Michael, a warrior archangel.
  4. The Bible doesn’t call Gabriel the “archangel.” The Book of Tobit (of Catholic and Orthodox canon) identifies the angels who stand in the presence of God as archangels, and so Gabriel has been called an archangel by tradition.
  5. Gabriel looks like a man (but see #6). The name Gabriel means “man of God” or “strength of God.” The second time Daniel encounters Gabriel (Daniel 9:21), he describes Gabriel as a “man [. . .] seen in the vision previously.” We don’t get any more details on Gabriel’s looks. Perhaps that’s because his messages are always so important.
  6. Gabriel scares people. When Daniel meets Gabriel, he is frightened and falls on his face. When Gabriel greets Zacharias, his first words are, “Do not be afraid.” Mary’s greeting is more celebratory, but Gabriel still follows up by telling her not to fear.
  7. Gabriel anticipates Jesus. Gabriel relays a prophecy concerning “Messiah the Prince” to Daniel. He tells Zacharias that John the Baptist will be a forerunner before the Lord. And most famously, he tells Mary that her son will be called “the Son of the Most High.” 

Friday, December 14, 2012

What does Christmas mean to you?

What does Christmas mean to you? No doubt it means many thinks to many people. I wonder what Christmas means to a mother who has lost her husband, who must take care of 3 or 4 children, working every day, never quite getting everything done, never making ends meet? What does Christmas mean to her? I wonder what it means to that older husband who has just lost his wife and has no family left in which to celebrate Christmas. I wonder what Christmas means to the little man in Zimbabwe, 80 years old, living in a hut, who knows nothing of shopping malls, jingle bells, or Christmas trees? What does Christmas mean to him? What does it mean to those military personnel who are serving on the front lines in Afghanistan? I’m sure Christmas means different things to different people.  To merchants it is the busiest time of the year. For others it means a Christmas bonus. Too many it is a time of fun and parties while to others anxiety and frustration. To the children it is perhaps a time of impatience.

What does it mean to you?

One of the most unique characteristics of Christianity that differentiates it from virtually all other religious beliefs is the incarnation. This is the central fact of Christmas that God humbled Himself to become a man to live with us and die for us so that He could abide in us. The good news of Christianity is that God comes to us in a very personal way to save us and to live in us.

"But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him "Immanuel"—which means, "God with us." - Matthew 1:20-23

What does Christmas mean to you?