December 4, 2022

From Heaven’s Courts

An angel’s story

Michelle Odinma

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.