Summary: Gabriel visits Elizabeth, Zechariah and Mary. (A narrative poem, with humor. It could be enhanced with a Gabriel character in mime.)
Style: Light touches.     Duration: 10-12min
Scripture: Luke 1: 5-38
Actors: 1 narrator


Gabriel always appeared in a hurry.

Gossamer wings radiant in the sun, swooping down, then landing like a goose on water.
There was no doubt about it. He could always work on his landing.
It almost ruined the occasion.

Dusting himself off,
Gabriel introduced himself.
How else would you know who he was?
There was no doubt he was an angel, in spite of the pitiful landing.
But names were rare for the diaphanous messengers.

The speaker took down the names of the addressees.
Even an angel could make mistakes.
No point giving the wrong message to the wrong person.
especially a message as important as this.

Then, checking off that he had the right address, Gabriel pulled out his script for the day.

It had been a long time since he’d had a script.
The last time he was put to use was to visit Daniel.
Fortunately the lions ignored him.
Then, the message was equally vital.
God sent only the best for the big jobs, Gabriel assured himself.

Angels then were interpreters.
For Daniel it was a dream that needed to be understood.
Not only to save the man’s bacon, but more importantly
to save the nation.
Gabriel was the deliverer of deliverance.
The messenger of hope.

It was no mean feat.
The messages always sounded improbable.
Half the time nobody believed him.
The other half, he could barely believe himself.
God was always cooking up some crazy scheme to save the world
in that kitchen, or the drawing room, or while out flying a kite.

The schemes of hope always sounded hare-brained to Gabriel.
Ours is not to question.

Given the winged messengers previous experiences
and the rigorous training involved,
it came as no surprise to Gabriel when he had read the instruction sheet for this visit.

“You are to make contact with an aged couple,
name of Elizabeth and Zechariah.
They have been wanting to have a child for decades now.
And I’m going to give them one.
A very special child.

You may recall Abraham and Sarah,
similar story. Old couple. No kids. Righteous and chosen.
Looking for a sign of the covenant.
When I suggested that they, in their nineties, would have a child of their own,
Sarah laughed.
They even named the child laughter.
Isaac was a fulfillment of the covenant.
We all had a good chuckle over that one.

Zechariah and Elizabeth will have a child.
and your job is to let them know that.
But this time there is no laughter.
This one is to be a prophet - to convict the people of their sin.
Zechariah is a priest in the temple.
Be as direct as you need to be.
But don’t let them give you any lip, either.
You can always invoke the notwithstanding clause
and render the man mute if he doesn’t believe you.
that will show how important this whole matter is.
If it’s your last resort, use it.

Gabriel stuffed the instruction sheet into his jeans,
folded in his wings
and entered the temple.
Zechariah was there, by himself, offering incense at the altar.
Angels don’t like too many witnesses, so this was the perfect moment.

He strode over to the old priest, tapped him on the shoulder,
and read off the script, verbatim.
Then he waited.

Zechariah scratched his grey hair in wonder.
His mind swirled.
Perhaps it was the incense, he thought.
Then, composing himself, he addressed the angel.
He expressed his utter disbelief in the message.
It was so improbable as to be considered nonsense.
He went over the list of excuses.

Gabriel listened for a moment,
remembering that Sarah and Abraham had done the same thing.
But he was impatient this day.
Maybe he was out of practice, but the old man was tiresome.
Gabriel had more work to do, and, weary of the whole business.
He slipped a peak at his instruction sheet.
Sure enough, there it was.
“Notwithstanding the reality of the promise,
if the subject refuses to listen to it, you have the authority to render him or her dumb.
The terms of the dumbness will be lifted on the successful completion of the pregnancy.”

So there it was. Gabriel decided to cut the whole affair short.
He waved a wing over Zechariah’s unsuspecting head, and the matter was done.
When the old man opened his mouth the only sound was that of his tongue flitting around like a bird in a cage.

As a courtesy to the priest, Gabriel advised him to tell Elizabeth the news, if he could manage it somehow.
• that she was pregnant
• that she was going to give birth to the prophet of the Messiah,
• that her husband’s muteness would be lifted once the prophet was born.
• you know - the usual.

“All the best to you and the missus.” Said the angel, and off he flew.
“Maybe I’m just getting tired,” thought Gabriel as he caught an updraft.
“I wonder if I should have taken that course in empathy and active listening. Or something on geriatics. Somehow I get the feeling I was a bit harsh.
Anyway, it was in the handbook. I covered the bases.

Now,” he said to himself, What’s next on the list? Here we go -

Wait until Elizabeth is six months pregnant and then visit her second cousin Mary and tell her that she is pregnant also.

“Fine,” thought Gabriel. “No problem there. Should be easy. But why does she need an angel? He sat down on a cloud and started to read the fine print, Whoa! I should have known better than to assume anything. Look at this…

On the stroke of six months, Gabriel goose-dove into the sleepy little town of Nazareth. The day was hotter than a hot day in - Nazareth. Never mind. It was hot. Gabriel gently cooled himself with his wings. How do these people manage with this heat? The place looked deserted. He looked at his instruction sheet, got his bearings from a map he got on his way out of the pearly gates, and knocked on the door of a small dirt house.

Gabriel looked around for signs of distinction. Nothing unusual about the house. it was the kind of neighborhood he had seen everywhere in this part of the world. Modest would be a generous word for it.

The girl who opened the door was so young Gabriel thought he had the wrong address. This was a teenager. Fourteen years was his guess. And yes, he had it right. Her name was Mary. And yes, she was engaged to an older man, a carpenter, name of Joseph. A nice man, she said, her cheeks blushing.

Sit down, sir, said Mary, who acted surprisingly composed for a visit from an angel. They sat in the shade in the back of the house. Her mother brought water.

I have news for you, Mary said Gabriel. Mary tilted her head and listened politely as the story poured out. Gabriel thought, I could learn from this girl how to listen. She pays attention. She doesn’t get rattled. She doesn’t make you feel like she is in a hurry. He thought with some embarrassment about the way he had treated Zechariah, and what kinds of stories Elizabeth would have to say about his behaviour towards the old man.

As the prophecy emerged Mary’s gaze intensified. She was absorbing every nuance like a sponge. She may not have been learned but she was wise beyond her years. Gabriel did wonder about the wisdom of God, though. Choosing a young whelp like this to give birth to the Messiah.

That was the point she wanted to talk about the most. In the long conversation that stretched into the afternoon, accompanied by falafels and dates, the girl wrestled with the angel.

In the midst of the talk, Gabriel remembered the stories of his angelic ancestors. Abraham and Sarah’s visitation. Jacob’s struggle with his brother Esau and the decisive moment at which he had to take on the angel of God before he could continue his journey of faith.

Unlike Jacob struggling through the night, this girl tangled with the complexities of God’s improbable plan in the daylight.

Jacob’s scuffle ended when his hip was displaced and the angel disappeared. For some reason, those chosen bear within their bodies the evidence of change.

Mary’s wrestling ended with the news that her body, too, would change. Pregnant with mystery and promise, she, like Jacob and Sarah, would bear in body, memory and soul what it was to be touched by the God of the covenant. And their burdens would be a sign, yet again, that God had promises to keep.

Sarah and now Elizabeth’s improbable pregnancies, and now Mary’s fruitful womb bore witness to the relentless love of God for the people, and, thought Gabriel, God’s eccentric wisdom outsmarted them all.

Gabriel smiled at Mary, wrapped her in his wings for a moment of fond farewell, and then, catching a warm updraft, soared off. It would be awhile, he imagined, before God would ever top this one.

(c) Jim Hatherly
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