The Angel Gabriella

Heritage Presbyterian Church

December 22, 2019
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Scripture reading – Matthew 3: 1-12
Advent Sermon series: “Faces in the Crowd”

About 2000 years ago, when wicked King Herod ruled Judea, the Most High sent me on seven extraordinary missions to prepare the way for his own Son to be born.

The Most High sent me to find an extraordinary young woman who lived in the small Galilean town of Nazareth. Her name was Mary, and she was engaged to a righteous man named Joseph.  When I appeared to her, I said, ‘Peace be with you! God has blessed you and is pleased with you.’ Mary was very surprised by this and wondered what I meant.

I explained to her, ‘Don’t be afraid; God has chosen you. You will become pregnant by the Holy Spirit and give birth to a baby boy and you will call him Jesus. He will be God’s own Son and his kingdom will never end.’

Mary seemed troubled by my words, but she trusted God. ‘Let it happen as God chooses.’ she replied.

I was so impressed that I decided to tell her more wonderful news.  I said that her cousin, Elizabeth whom everyone thought was too old to have children, would have a baby boy whom God had chosen to prepare the way for Jesus.

After I left, Mary said goodbye to her family and friends and went to visit her cousin Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah. Elizabeth was very happy to see Mary. She knew that Mary had been chosen by God to be the mother of his Son.

I had already told Zechariah that Elizabeth’s baby would prepare people to welcome Jesus. He was to be called John. Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then returned home to Nazareth.

Meanwhile, back in Nazareth, Joseph was worried when he found out that Mary was expecting a baby before their marriage had taken place. He wondered if he should put off the wedding altogether. So, I appeared to Joseph in a dream and said: ‘Don’t be afraid to have Mary as your wife.  She has been chosen by God to be the mother of the baby.  This special child would be named Jesus which means ‘Savior’ because he would save people. When Joseph woke up, he did exactly what I had told him to do and took Mary as his wife.

At this time, the land where Mary and Joseph lived was part of the Roman Empire. The Emperor wanted to have a list of all the people in the empire, to make sure they paid their taxes.  He ordered everyone to return to the town where their families originally came from, and to enter their names in an official register there.

Mary and Joseph traveled a long way from Nazareth in Galilee, to Bethlehem in Judea, because that was Joseph’s hometown. They traveled very slowly and carefully because Mary’s baby was due to be born soon.

When they reached Bethlehem, they had problems finding somewhere to stay. So many people had come to register their names in the census, that every house was full, and every bed was taken in all of the guest rooms. The only place they could find was with the animals. People often kept animals in the house, especially at night, and used them to keep their houses warm! People normally slept on a raised/upper level with the animals below to give them extra warmth.

So, in the place where the animals slept, Mary gave birth to Jesus, the Son of God.  In those days it was the custom to wrap newborn babies tightly in a long cloth called ‘swaddling clothes’. Jesus’ bed was the manger that the animals ate their hay.

In the hills and fields outside Bethlehem, shepherds looked after their sheep through the long night. Suddenly, I appeared in the sky above them and the glory of God shone around them. The shepherds were very, very scared, but I said, ‘Get up and don’t be afraid. I have good news for everyone. Today in Bethlehem a Savior has been born for you. You will find the baby lying in a manger.’

Then my sister and brother angels appeared with me, lighting up the sky. The shepherds heard us praising God singing: ‘Glory to God in highest, and peace to everyone on earth!’ When we had gone, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go and see what has happened.’

So, the shepherds went to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph. The baby Jesus was lying in a manger as they had been told.  When they saw him, the shepherds told everyone what I had said and all who heard the story were astonished. Then the shepherds returned to their sheep, praising God as they walked for sending his Son to be their Savior.

After Jesus was born, a brand, new bright star appeared in sky. Some Wise Men in faraway countries saw the star and guessed what it meant. They were very clever men who studied the stars and had read in very old writings that a new star would appear when a great king was born. They set out to find the new king and bring him gifts.

Those Wise Men followed the star towards the country of Judea and when they got to the capital called Jerusalem, they began to ask people: ‘Where is the child who is born king of the Jews?’  Herod, that wicked king of Judea, heard this and it made him very angry to think that someone might be going to take his place as king. Herod sent for the Wise Men to come to him.  He told them to go on following the star until they had found the baby king. He said: ‘When you have found him, let me know where he is, so that I may go and worship him too.’

But Herod did not tell them that he really had an evil plan in mind to kill the new king.

Those Wise Men followed the star towards Bethlehem (where it said that the king would be born in the old writings). It seemed to stop and shine directly down upon the place where Jesus was.

The Wise Men entered the house where they now lived and found Mary and Joseph and the baby.  They bowed down and worshipped him. The Wise Men spread their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh before the family.

That same night, I warned the Wise Men in a dream not to go back to Herod.  So, they returned home to their countries in the East by a different way.

When the Wise Men had gone, I appeared again to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up!  Take Jesus and Mary and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for Jesus to kill him.’

So, Joseph got up quickly, took Jesus and Mary during the night, and they left for Egypt, where they stayed until Herod died years later.

When Herod realized that he had been tricked by the Wise Men, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys aged two or younger in Bethlehem and the surrounding area. This was to try and kill the new King, as his plan to find the location of the new king from the Wise Men had failed.

After Herod had died, I appeared to Joseph once again in a dream and told him, ‘Get up, take Jesus and Mary and go back to Israel, for those who were trying kill Jesus are dead.’

So, Joseph got up, took Jesus and Mary and they went back to Israel. But when he heard that Herod’s son was now king of Judea, he was afraid to go there. So instead they went north to Galilee and lived in the town of Nazareth.

That’s my story.  It was all so wonderful, and I think of it often.  But now, that baby in the manger grew up to be the Son of God, Christ the King.  I and my fellow angels sing our praises for him every day. 

I always hope that his believers on Earth will do the same.