When we think of a Christmas angel, most of us imagine the small plastic or cloth figure on top our Christmas tree, but there is a real, living Christmas angel, and his name is Gabriel.
Only the Gospel writer Luke tells us about Gabriel in the New Testament. This heavenly being appeared to Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist to announce that Zechariah's elderly wife Elizabeth would miraculously give birth to a son. They were to name the baby John, consecrate him as a nazirite, and know that John would lead the way to the Messiah.
After giving Zechariah this prophecy, he said,
"I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time." (Luke 1:19-20, NIV)
The Christmas Angel Appears to MarySome time later, God sent Gabriel to a virgin named Mary, in the village of Nazareth. The angel announced the Christmas story:
"Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob's descendants forever; his kingdom will never end." (Luke 1:30-33, NIV)
Gabriel explained that Mary would conceive through the power of the Holy Spirit. After Mary pledged her obedience, the angel left.
Events unfolded exactly as Gabriel had foretold. Luke tells us an unnamed angel, probably Gabriel, announced the birth of Jesus to a group of shepherds, accompanied by a whole host of other angels. The birth of Jesus, the Savior of the world, is the most joyous event in the Bible.
First Appearance of This Christmas AngelAlthough Gabriel is associated with Christmas, this is not the first time he is mentioned in the Bible. He appeared to the prophet Daniel:
While I, Daniel, was watching the vision and trying to understand it, there before me stood one who looked like a man. And I heard a man's voice from the Ulai calling, "Gabriel, tell this man the meaning of the vision." (Daniel 8:15-16, NIV)
Gabriel then explained the vision. Later, Gabriel came to Daniel again to explain another difficult prophecy: "while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice." (Daniel 9:21, NIV)
Daniel's visions and the birth of Jesus were hundreds of years apart, but like all other angels, Gabriel is an ageless being, created by God before the world began. Gabriel is immortal; angels cannot die. He is also called the angel of announcement or revelation. In the book of Revelation, one of the angels who stands near the throne of God is assumed to be Gabriel, although he is not mentioned by name.
Only three angels are mentioned by name in the canonical books of the Bible: Gabriel, Michael, and the fallen angel Lucifer, or Satan. Tradition says Gabriel will announce Christ's second coming by blowing a trumpet.
Jack Zavada, a career writer and contributor for About.com, is host to a Christian website for singles. Never married, Jack feels that the hard-won lessons he has learned may help other Christian singles make sense of their lives. His articles and ebooks offer great hope and encouragement. To contact him or for more information, visit Jack's Bio Page.