2 Sm 7, 1-5, 8-12, 12-16; Psalm 89:2-5, 27, 29; Romans 16: 25-27; Lk 1: 26-38.

Turning Over Stones

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth

I am not really what you would call a -- Hardcore Angel Person. Sure, I believe in angels as seriously as I believe in all the things we profess to believe in each Sunday. I suppose they would fall under all of the things that God has created -- seen and unseen.

But from what I have seen lately, being a full-fledged -- Angel Person -- in this day and age takes some time, some work and some capital. In terms of time, I know there are quite a few television shows on these days that makes use of angels -- Touched By An Angel -- being the most popular one. Millions of people tune in to this show each week and there are over a hundred web sites devoted to it.

Some people have decided to use Motif a la Angel to decorate their homes with. In fact, there is a priest who will remain nameless -- Fr. Devlin from St. Bernadettes in Northboro -- who has his entire first floor decorated by angels. Everywhere you look there are angels hanging on the walls, sitting on bookshelves, in paintings and icons, angel candle sticks, and angels as salt and pepper shakers. Clearly, this guy likes angels. it must have taken a lot of work to accumulate all things angels.

In terms of capital, Angels really sell like hotcakes this time of year. I can recall helping a monk at St. Josephs Abbey in Spencer send out a hundred angels from their gift shop one Advent after Bob and Delores Hope dropped their Christmas list off to them when visiting. We wrapped angels all night and sent them around the world to Presidents, kings, and movie stars. Angels are in.

I received this angel in the mail yesterday from a friend in Baltimore -- because she is an old friend from college who knows me well, she also sent me these -- Twinkies -- which she knows I like.

Well, I can not compete with these hard core Angel People (though Twinkie people might have some competition), but I have been thinking about angels all week -- especially Gabriel. We are only given two names of angels in all of Scripture -- Michael and Gabriel. And, I am so glad that this angel is named in the Gospel today. His name means -- Hero of God and his job is to deliver messages.

In scripture angels travel in twos, threes or in multitudes. In some cases they travel alone. In scripture they appear as dazzling celestial creatures; but sometimes in the form of humans. Sometimes they appear as tow truck operators like the time I broke down on the Cross Bronx Expressway and he showed up out of nowhere. On the other hand, when he handed me the bill, I doubted his angel status -- at least him being a good angel.

Gabriel announced both the birth of John the Baptist to Zecheriah, and the birth of Jesus to Mary. I also have a sneaking suspicion that he was the angel who announced the birth of Isaac to Abraham in the book of Genesis and also announced the birth of Samson to his mother in the book of Judges.

My prayer this Advent is to ask God to allow me to be excited and surprised by what is coming -- by what is about to happen to the world. Sure, we know how the story unfolds, but I want to be childlike and pretend not to know how it all plays out.

I think God has sent Gabriel to me this week to help me along with this prayer.

Like a child I have been thinking about the excitement of Gabriel. Hundreds and hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, the Lord tells Abraham that the savior of the world will descend from him. A millennium later, King David is told that the savior will also be an heir to his thrown. Then, over the centuries, the prophets add their own references -- sometimes blunt, sometimes veiled: Emmanuel. Out of you, O Bethlehem, will come a ruler. A bruised reed he will not break. A dimly burning wick he will not extinguish.

It has been 400 years since another references has been made; but this ended six months ago when Gabriel was asked to break that silence by delivering a message to Zecheriah about the birth of his son, John the Baptist. And, part of the message is that John will prepare a people fit for the Lord -- prepare them for the coming of the Messiah.

Like a child, I wonder if Gabriel pondered when he would be called into service next? When might there be another reference -- veiled or blunt -- to the coming Messiah? A hundred years? A millennium? When will Gabriel be sent out to announce the greatest message he has ever delivered? How long will humanity have to wait?

My excitement this advent comes from this short wait of only six months after the announcement to Zecheriah. What we have heard today is what the world has been waiting for hundreds and hundreds of years to hear, and what Gabriel has waited with excitement to deliver. It was not a millennium after the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist. It is today. Feel the excitement. The Lord is coming.

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