The Bible stories of the birth of Jesus confront us with the reality of “the unseen world” in which angelic messengers interact with individuals and groups. Here is an imaginative telling of the birth story of Jesus from the perspective of the angel Gabriel.—Editors 

It was the last time I planned on asking after asking twice before. But of course, I was met with the same answer. “It has to be My Son, Gabriel.” I had thought long and hard about it. Perhaps if I could make a good case about why heaven needed the archangel Michael to remain at the side of the Father, they’d let me go. So here I was, trying once more. Something needed to happen soon, otherwise earth would truly be doomed. 

From heaven’s courts I could see a familiar dark haze encircled around the planet. Since the first human pair had fallen, the haze had spread and darkened from all the years of evil. Sin, sickness, and death had left their mark. Even with the light of the sun steadily breaking its way through the fog, the devilish haze was a constant reminder to the rest of the universe that the citizens of earth needed a Saviour. 

The closer I approached the throne, the brighter the light from the Father shone on me. I never tired of this; dwelling in God’s presence was an honor no angel would forfeit. When the light from the Father touched you, your whole being was invigorated. The Spirit was pouring into me love, joy, and peace. I drew closer to the light. 

Before I could speak, I was instructed to visit one of the earthly priests in the temple in Jerusalem. Zechariah was his name. Both he and his wife, Elizabeth, were older according to human years, and righteous before God. I was to fly swiftly to him as he ministered in the temple and tell him that his prayers had been heard in heaven. His wife, Elizabeth, would no longer be barren. She would have a son named John, and he would begin to prepare the way for the Messiah to come. There, in the scrolls of Isaiah, it had been written. Now it was happening. The next phase of the Father’s plan was unfolding. 

To Prepare the Way

In the blink of an eye I was there. I arrived during the hour of incense, while prayers were ascending from the people of God. Ah, his prayers for a child must have come up again before the veil. This will be even greater news then! I waited in the holy place of the temple. I figured he would see me next to the altar of incense. Hopefully I wouldn’t startle him. 

“Don’t be afraid!” I said. I didn’t waste time before delivering the message. The sooner he knew his prayers were answered about having a child, the sooner he could rejoice. But he didn’t rejoice. His face contorted in confusion. He reminded me how he and his wife were aging in human years. Has this man not seen the power of God? 

“I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.” I’ll have to give him a tangible reminder that God did visit him and answer his prayers. He’ll be mute until the baby is born. I left the temple and headed back to headquarters, but I couldn’t help thinking how little faith Zechariah had. The earth was even darker than I had realized. Even the faith of God’s servants seemed to be growing dim. 

My time with Zechariah was short. When I returned, the angels were bustling to and fro, observing several of God’s human servants from earth. They were discussing Mary and Joseph, who were betrothed, Wise Men from the East of the earth, and a group of devout shepherds. I inquired from the other angels why they were focusing on these particular individuals. One angel replied, “The servants of God on earth have little faith. These are the ones we’ve found who still have hope in the coming Messiah. They’re part of the Father’s plan.” I headed toward the most holy place. 

Again, the closer I came, the more my body was invigorated. I bowed in worship. “Gabriel, deliver this message to the virgin Mary in the city of Nazareth. Tell her she will have a son and she will name him Jesus because He will save His people from their sins. Her pregnancy will not be of man, but of the Holy Ghost.” It’s happening. Michael will soon be taking up residence on earth. Maybe I should offer my services now? “Once you’ve talked with Mary, tell Joseph, her husband, not to fear taking her as his bride. He is a just man and faithful; reassure him, and he will proceed.” 

I arose immediately. I felt honored to deliver such news. Since Eve, every woman of Israel had hoped their womb would be blessed with such a gift. Mary was truly favored by heaven; she must have great faith. Joseph, chosen to be the earthly father of the greatest King, was a good man. My reasons for offering myself instead of Michael the archangel were looking weaker than I had initially thought. Maybe I wanted to offer myself simply because I didn’t want Him to go. I would rather die a million deaths than see Him live and die on the earth. It hurt, but I trusted the Father’s plan. 

For a Young Woman With Great Faith

I made my way back to the planet to find Mary. I watched as she arrived home from the market. I assumed I would startle her; that’s typically what seemed to happen anyway. “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you! Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” I proceeded to tell her more details about the child, and she received them quite well. “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” she asked. This was a genuine question. No miracle had ever been done like this before. A barren womb producing life? Yes. But a virgin having a child would be one of the greatest of God’s miracles. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” I watched as her confusion subsided and her brows lifted to a state of delighted peace. “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” At last, what great faith! 

I was hoping that reassuring Joseph to take Mary as a bride would be just as pleasant as talking with Mary. This time I would be appearing to him in a dream. Mary’s waist was expanding, and it was obvious that he had been thinking about what to do next. By his distress it was clear that he loved Mary very much. He intended for no harm to come her way. I waited until nightfall to tell him, and watched as he whispered a tearful prayer to heaven. In his sleep I spoke to him, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” I didn’t need to linger to find out what happened. Joseph was a man of faith. He would obey. 

I was on my way back when I saw two bands of angels headed to earth. I stopped them mid-flight. “Where are you headed?” I inquired. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased! We’re headed to a group of Wise Men we’ve been directing in their study of the prophecies. Their faith is greater than many of Israel. They’ve been expecting the Messiah for some time now. We will direct them to Mary, Joseph, and the baby. They have a long journey to travel; they must begin soon. We’ll lead them far enough at a distance so that they’ll believe they are following a star!” 

The second band of angels spoke as well. “We’ve been watching a group of devout shepherds in Bethlehem for some time now. They also have been awaiting the arrival of the Promised One.” I waved to the angels as they continued on their journey. My heart was overjoyed that finally salvation had come to the earth. I couldn’t help feeling a bit sad that heaven would be missing its Head Commander. Things would be fine here, but different. We’d have to keep a close eye on the Baby with Mary and Joseph. 

I joined the host of angels as they led the shepherds to the barn where Jesus had been born. We all watched from the sky above as we bowed continually in adoration. Despite how crude and dirty the barn was, the glory of God shone brightly in that place. The next phase of the Father’s plan had commenced. We raised our voices in hallelujah and shouts of praise. Praise be to God! Salvation had finally arrived.

From authors to poets, musicians to lyricists, everyone has their take on what love is. Although the question dates back to antiquity, it remains a still-asked question because genuine, pure love is rare to see and hard to find.

Like so many, I’ve scoured the Internet, via Google, to find answers.

“When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too.” Rebecca, age 8

“Love is when your puppy licks your face after you’ve left him alone all day.” Maryanne, age 4

Along with these young philosophers, some of the greatest poets and leaders of our time have chimed in. The late Maya Angelou said, “Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” Martin Luther King, Jr., adds, “Love is the greatest force in the universe. It is the heartbeat of the moral cosmos. He who loves is a participant in the being of God.” Each definition reveals another dimension of love’s depth and reality.

The Bible’s Take on Love

The Bible sums up love as a personal being— God Himself: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7, 8). God is love. To be something means to embody that idea or element in its totality. And when the Bible says God is love, it means that what God speaks, thinks, or feels is the revelation of love. And the Bible does not stop its explanation there.

In Corinthians Paul addresses several issues that were taking place within the church. Believers were having a difficult time getting along, and they seemed to have forgotten their calling as Christians. There were divisions in the church, elitist cliques, and individuals practicing immoral behavior. Mass confusion was the norm, with some praying and ministering in different languages at the same time. Nothing about their practices indicated they were renewed people and followers of Christ.

In his epistle Paul emphasizes that God’s body does not work in opposition to itself. God’s body, like our physical body, acts as one unit. It moves in harmony, working together. Paul continues to illustrate this idea through poetic form, showing what it looks like to operate as the body of Christ, and what their ultimate desire should be as believers.

Love is patient and kind: love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never ends.

This is what the body of Christ looks like when it works in complete harmony—the very embodiment of God Himself. This is love. God is patient and kind. God does not envy or boast. God is not arrogant or rude; He does not insist on His way. He is not irritable or resentful. He does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but He rejoices with the truth. God bears all things, God believes all things, God hopes all things, and God endures all things. God is eternal.

Love, God, and Humanity

In essence, whenever love is manifest in our being, we are being exactly who God created us to be. I would like to think the real reason people Google the question “What is love?” is that they have not seen it. The truth is that God’s people have not always embodied this message. However, I would argue that there have been glimpses of such a love.

Martin Luther King, Jr. showed, in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, one of the clearest manifestations of what God’s love in real time looks like. “True pacifism,” or “nonviolent resistance,” King wrote, is “a courageous confrontation of evil by the power of love.” King was both “morally and practically” committed to nonviolence. He believed that “the Christian doctrine of love operating through the Gandhian method of nonviolence was one of the most potent weapons available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.”

Today many American Christians are exhausted at the continuous effort to bring attention to events buried and forgotten in American history. The journey of African Americans fighting for equality in the United States continues to shed light on the difficult shadow of hatred and oppression entrenched in the nation; thus Christians should not tire of hearing about the civil rights movement. It was a movement rooted in the principles of Christ. Regardless of your nationality, the civil rights movement embodied precisely what we claim to hold true as Christians.

It is no wonder that these principles sound a lot like the life of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 12:2 says, “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame.” Jesus had a deep faith in the future. So deep that Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” In other words, Christ did not die when humanity was at its best; He died when we were at our worst. He saw far off into the future the promise and reality of renewed and transformed children of God. Love is supernatural. Love is power. Love is life-giving. It is redemptive. It is honest. It is true. Love begets love because love is divine. Love is an eternal entity that creates change. Love is God. It is this type of love that dispels the hate in the human heart.

Loving People to the God of Love

Daryl Davis, an African American blues musician, convinced 200 people to leave the Ku Klux Klan and other White supremacist groups through an unconventional strategy. Interviewers went to his home in Washington, D.C., where they found a closet filled with an assorted collection of colored robes and matching hoods. They were uniforms abandoned by those who had experienced a change of heart and found a new perspective on life. It seemed that these cloaks of hate now served as a different type of memorial. Davis says that “anger must be channeled into positive actions like peaceful protest and political advocacy.” The method that he uses to fight hate? Friendship. Davis understands the idea of what it means to reclaim that which is of value.

Ex-racist and White nationalist Derek Black was a promoter of alt-right ideology. He credits himself for infiltrating modern-day politics, with alt-right ideology. He says his work manifested itself in the 2016 United States election. Black was raised a prodigy of White nationalism. His parents removed him from public elementary school to isolate him from Haitian and Hispanic classmates. His homeschool training in racist rhetoric led him to be a standout public figure for White nationalism early on.

However, attending a multicultural college was a drastically different experience for Black. He attempted to keep a low profile on campus about his true identity as a public self-proclaimed racist. But he was found out. Derek’s associate, Matthew Stevenson, an Orthodox Jew, did some research on Black. Instead of excluding him, he decided to include him in his social circle. He figured, “He probably never met a Jewish person before.” Even though he was socially ostracized, Matthew invited Derek to a Shabbat dinner at his place. Few people showed up to Matthew’s dinner initially, but Derek kept coming back. He seemed different in person than what was described online.

With time, the Shabbat group returned to its regular attendance of Hispanics, Blacks, atheists, and Christians. Although all parties were initially suspicious, the Orthodox Jew, Matthew, and the White supremacist, Derek, developed a friendship. This was the catalyst that led Derek Black to reevaluate the principles he had been raised on. He liked his Jewish, Black, and Hispanic friends. These kindling friendships helped him to see the humanity in all people. These friendships eventually led Derek to renounce his White nationalist ideology.

This is the culture of Christ that the world has been dying to see. These glimpses of truth, of love in action, have not yet been activated and practiced at full capacity. Anyone who desires change for themselves and others must love, for love is transformational.

“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that,” said Martin Luther King. To love is supernatural, for by loving, you allow streams of divine power to dispel darkness. Love is God.

Michelle Odinma is associate minister of Community Life and Service at the Church of the Advent Hope in the city of New York.