This is an adapted form of the sermon I preached today, the Fourth Sunday of Advent. The gospel text I used was not the standard one. I used the whole story of the angel Gabriel , Luke 1:8-19, 26-38; 2:8-13a. I preached in character, as the angel Gabriel speaking to a crowd of his fellow angels.
Well, hello my fellow angels! So good to see you all today. I am Gabriel, and I have just returned from Earth. Yes, that’s right, the boss sent me to Earth with a very, very special mission. And I don’t mind telling you that I think I did a rather splendid job of it. But then again, we are angels, aren’t we? Everything we do is splendid!
So I was sent to the holy city. Jerusalem. And not just Jerusalem, but the holy building. The temple. And not just the temple, but the holy of holies. The sanctuary right in the center, behind the curtain, you know where they used to keep the Ark of the Covenant. And not just the holy of holies, but also the holiest time, when one priest entered the sanctuary, all alone, to offer incense to the boss. It was the perfect time, the perfect place, for an angel like me to appear.
So there I stood, my fellow angels. There I stood waiting for the priest to come in. It was a fellow named Zechariah. Of course, I knew it would be. And when he saw me, Zechariah was terrified. Of course he was. But I remembered my training, and I told him, “Do not be afraid.” Zechariah is old by human standards, and he and his wife have no children. So I knew he would be happy to hear my news: “Zechariah, your prayer has been answered. Your wife Elizabeth will bear a son, and you will name him John.”
I told him that first to whet his appetite. Then I told him the rest of the news. I said, “But wait. There’s more. Your son John will be great in the sight of the Lord. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn people back to the Lord. He will get the people of Israel ready to welcome the Lord.” In that moment, I could see the future, my friends. I could see John, all grown up, standing in the river, dressed in camels hair, baptizing and proclaiming repentance. It was exhilarating to see this – after all, the people down there really need a message like that. It’s gotten bad on Earth, people are doing all kinds of sinful things, and I’m glad that the boss is doing something about it. I didn’t tell Zechariah any of that. I just smiled, and waited for his response. I knew he’d be thrilled.
But guess what he said. He said, “I’m old, and so is my wife. Are you sure you picked the right priest? Can you give me a sign that this is true?”
I was appalled! How dare he! “I am Gabriel!” I told him. “I stand in God’s presence! What further sign do you need! Here’s your sign, Zechariah. You won’t be able to speak until John is born.”
I thought that was fair. Then I left him, and came back here.
And it seems the boss was pleased with my performance, because I just found out that I have another mission to Earth in a few months. I’ll tell you about that when I get back.
SIX MONTHS LATER.
Well, hello fellow angels. I’ve just returned from Earth again. Have you been to Earth lately? It’s rough down there. I thought the people were just sinful, but that’s not it. They’re suffering. They’re hungry. They’re worried. They’re desperate.
Anyway, I thought I was going back to Jerusalem, but no, I was sent to Galilee, Galilee of all places. Some town I’d never even heard of called Nazareth. I was supposed to find a woman named Mary, and tell that she was going to bear the Messiah, the son of God. I didn’t expect what I found.
Friends, she wasn’t even married yet. She was young and poor. I couldn’t believe that this was what the boss had in mind. But that’s what the mission said, and I’m a professional. So I told her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you!” She wasn’t afraid of me, or of these words. She was curious. I never encountered that before, so I hesitated and just said what I always say: “Do not be afraid.” And I told her that she would conceive and bear a son, that he would be great, that he would be the Son of God, that he would be given the throne of his ancestor David.
And again, she wasn’t afraid. She wasn’t astonished. She was – puzzled. Perplexed. “How can this be? I’m a virgin,” she said.
I told her that the boss had a plan for that. And then – you’ll never believe what she said. I’ve never seen faith like this before on Earth, ever. She said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord. Let it be with me according to your word.” Then I was the one who was puzzled and perplexed.
But I’m also really excited, my friends. I know a little bit about the boss’ plan for this child, and now I see who’s going to raise him. Mary will make him so strong and so faithful. And he’s going to need every bit of strength and faith to get through what’s ahead. But it’s going to be good, my friends. He’s going to change that world down there forever. He has to – they need it so much.
NINE MONTHS LATER.
Friends! Angels! You’ve got to come with me!
Excuse all the mud and grass and – uhh, whatever that is there. I’ve just come back from Earth, from a field of sheep, actually! You have to come down with me!
See, the boss sent me on one more mission. (pick up paper) The message I got said, “Today is the day I am born on Earth! Go, Gabriel, and tell the people the good news! Go into a certain field where you will find a group of shepherds, and tell them that there is great joy for all the people!”
I know, shepherds, right? But I did it. I wore my best glow-in-the-dark robes, and I shone heavenly light over them all, and I told them all. They were so overjoyed to hear it, too. There were tears in their eyes; I could tell how much they needed this. I think this thing the boss is doing is so strange, but I think it’s exactly what the Earth needs. They need hope. They need peace. They need joy. And I am so humbled that I got to be the one to announce it.
So that’s why I want you to come with me. I just left those shepherds. I told them I’d be right back, and they’re waiting. I want you all to come back with me, so that we can sing for them. In eight-part harmony, like only angels can do. I want us to go and praise God before them, and show them that this news is the best news that there has ever been, that it’s good news not only for them, but for us as well. I want to show them that all of heaven is rejoicing right now. I want to show them that hope, and peace, and joy are on the way. In fact, they’re lying in a manger in Bethlehem right now.
Will you join me? Will you come back with me, and tell those desperate people out there, those people who need this so much, will you tell them that this is not just about a baby? That this is about peace on the whole Earth? That this is about hope for all the future? That this is about joy in what God is doing right now? Will you join me and tell them that God is there with them?
Let’s go now and sing to them. Let’s tell them. Let’s show them. Will you join me?