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Gabriel must have scratched his head at this one.

He wasn’t one to question his God-given missions. Sending fire and dividing seas were all in an eternity’s work for this angel. When God sent, Gabriel went.

And when word got out that God was to become man, Gabriel was enthused. He could envision the moment:

The Messiah in a blazing chariot.

The King descending on a fiery cloud.

An explosion of light from which the Messiah would emerge.

That’s what he expected. What he never expected, however, was what he got: a slip of paper with a Nazarene address. “God will become a baby,” it read. “Tell the mother to name the child Jesus. And tell her not to be afraid.” Gabriel was never one to question, but this time he had to wonder.

God will become a baby? Gabriel had seen babies before. He had been platoon leader on the bulrush operation. He remembered what little Moses looked like.


That’s okay for humans, he thought to himself. But God?

The heavens can’t contain him; how could a body? Besides, have you seen what comes out of those babies? Hardly befitting for the Creator of the universe. Babies must be carried and fed, bounced and bathed. To imagine some mother burping God on her shoulder—why, that was beyond what even an angel could imagine.

And what of this name—what was it—Jesus? Such a common name. There’s a Jesus in every cul-de-sac. Come on, even Gabriel has more punch to it than Jesus. Call the baby Eminence or Majesty or Heaven-sent. Anything but Jesus.


So Gabriel scratched his head. What happened to the good ol’ days? The Sodom and Gomorrah stuff. Flooding the globe. Flaming swords. That’s the action he liked.

But Gabriel had his orders. Take the message to Mary. Must be a special girl, he assumed as he traveled. But Gabriel was in for another shock. One peek told him Mary was no queen. The mother-to-be of God was not regal. She was a Jewish peasant who’d barely outgrown her acne and had a crush on a guy named Joe.

And speaking of Joe—what does this fellow know? Might as well be a weaver in Spain or a cobbler in Greece. He’s a carpenter. Look at him over there, sawdust in his beard and nail apron around his waist. You’re telling me God is going to have dinner every night with him? You’re telling me the


source of wisdom is going to call this guy “Dad”? You’re telling me a common laborer is going to be charged with giving food to God?

What if he gets laid off?

What if he gets cranky?

What if he decides to run off with a pretty young girl from down the street? Then where will we be?

It was all Gabriel could do to keep from turning back. “This is a peculiar idea you have, God,” he must have muttered to himself.

Are God’s guardians given to such musings?

Are we? Are we still stunned by God’s coming? Still staggered by the event? Does Christmas still spawn the same speechless wonder it did two thousand years ago?

I’ve been asking that question lately—to myself. As I write, Christmas is only days away and something just happened that has me concerned that the pace of the holidays may be overshadowing the purpose of the holidays.

I saw a manger in a mall. Correct that. I barely saw a manger in a mall. I almost didn’t see it. I was in a hurry. Guests coming. Santa dropping in. Sermons to be prepared. Services to be planned. Presents to be purchased.

The crush of things was so great that the crèche of Christ was almost ignored. I nearly missed it. And had it not been for the child and his father, I would have.


But out of the corner of my eye, I saw them. The little boy, three, maybe four years old, in jeans and high-tops staring at the manger’s infant. The father, in baseball hat and work clothes, looking over his son’s shoulder, gesturing first at Joseph, then Mary, then the baby. He was telling the little fellow the story.


And oh, the twinkle in the boy’s eyes. The wonder on his little face. He didn’t speak. He just listened. And I didn’t move. I just watched. What questions were filling the little boy’s head? Could they have been the same as Gabriel’s? What sparked the amazement on his face? Was it the magic?

And why is it that out of a hundred or so of God’s children only two paused to consider his son? What is this December demon that steals our eyes and stills our tongues? Isn’t this the season to pause and pose Gabriel’s questions?


The tragedy is not that we can’t answer them, but that we are too busy to ask them.

Only heaven knows how long Gabriel fluttered unseen above Mary before he took a breath and broke the news. But he did. He told her the name. He told her the plan. He told her not to be afraid. And when he announced, “With God nothing is impossible!” he said it as much for himself as for her.

For even though he couldn’t answer the questions, he knew who could, and that was enough. And even though we can’t answer them all, taking time to ask a few would be a good start.


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