Angels We Have Heard On High

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Angels We Have Heard On High

By Rev. Elizabeth Henry

Day 1 of 7

“I am Gabriel. I stand in God’s presence. I was sent to speak to you and to bring this good news to you.” (Luke 1:19)

If you have any part of the Christmas story memorized from childhood, you can probably still quote the angels’ lines. Gabriel in particular (one of the few angels most people know by name) is a major player in the Nativity from well before Jesus is born. He covers a lot of ground with visits to everyone from Elizabeth (Mary’s cousin and John the Baptist’s mother), to Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the 3 Wise Men who—despite what your grandma’s nativity set may lead you to believe—didn’t actually show up until Jesus was a toddler somewhere around his terrible-twos. Gabriel is the first one to the baby shower and the last one to leave; I imagine the angel’s presence felt something like that of a helpful, but too present mother-in-law who moves in for a few weeks to help take care of the new baby. Sure, the extra guidance is appreciated, but it’s also damn disruptive.

That’s Gabriel’s whole deal, in fact. Disruption is the name of the game. Gabriel first appears in a spot that no one but the priests have any business being in—the Holy of Holies. This area is authorized personnel only and open strictly to priests like Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah. It was cordoned off from the people by a curtain to keep the sacred separate from the grubby little hands of the public. This is the same curtain, in fact, that is torn in two when Jesus breathes his last. Foreshadowing much?

From the jump, Gabriel comes to upset the barriers of physical spaces as a way to break down spiritual and relational walls, as well. In the Christmas story alone, the angels proclaim the opening of temples and tabernacles, wombs and throne rooms. And these physical openings bring forth an opening of the hearts and minds to God and to one another. Who better to act as this holy disruptor than an angel, one who dances between two worlds as God’s messenger, who holds the ethereal and the earthly together by their very nature as creatures in supernatural, intimate relationship with the Creator?

These holy messengers point the way to a more open and connected way of being in the world through both their proclamation and their presence. For though they appear as men, they stand in the presence of God from whence they are sent to bring good news to the rest of God’s creatures.

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