By Susan Ciancio
“What manner of love is this?” Michael the archangel asked.
Advent is a time of preparation, reflection, anticipation, and joy. And nowhere is there greater joy than in the coming of Christ.
Christian author Max Lucado understands this. His fictional book An Angel’s Story tells of the coming of Christ through the eyes of the angel Gabriel. If you have never read this powerful book, now is the time to find a copy, for you will see the birth of Jesus in a magnificent new light.
Taken from Lucado’s imagination of what might have occurred prior to Mary meeting Gabriel and the events leading up to Christ’s birth, and based partly on Revelation 12, An Angel’s Story is a beautiful look at the greatest gift we have ever been given.
This small 50-page book has something for all ages—love, humor, action, and triumph over evil. Whether you read it alone or with your family, you will marvel at the images, the quotes, and the strong faith and trust exhibited by the angels who love God so purely and deeply. It is a faith we must long to have.
Below is a small sampling of some of the scenes you will find in the book, along with a short reflection. Each will impel you to read the book and to ponder the magnificence of Our Lord, and each will fill you with awe as you build your own anticipation for Christ’s birth.
1. In one of the first scenes, God and Lucifer have a conversation about God’s first gift to mankind: choice. Lucifer delights in the fact that man has made bad choices. He taunts God, saying: “Ever since the fruit was plucked from the tree in the Garden, I’ve held Your children captive. They fell. Fast. Hard. They are mine.”
God responds: “Your deceptions have only served as platforms for My mercy. . . . Every act you have intended for evil, I have used for good.”
God’s will will not be thwarted, though Satan tries hard. Yes, bad things happen in life, often as a result of the bad choices people make. But God never abandons us. When He sees us hurting, He is there to help us. His love and His mercy are infinite. And we, too, have a choice: Will we allow Him to help us find good in the bad? Or will we allow anger or bitterness to consume us?
2. When God tells Lucifer of His plan to send His Son, Lucifer is incredulous and asks why. God’s response is simple: “Because I love them.”
Imagine a love so immense and so infinite that you give your only Son. That is the love God has for us. God gave His son not so that He could live, but so that He could die. For in His death, we live. Sometimes we may, like Lucifer, ask why, but we need only look at the cross to understand.
3. God gives Gabriel a vial containing His essence—His Seed. Gabriel must guard this as he takes it to find Mary. He asks God how he will find her, and God responds that Gabriel will just “know.” To this, Gabriel responds: “I could not comprehend God’s plan, but my understanding was not essential. My obedience was.”
We can learn a valuable lesson from Gabriel’s words. Our faith has many mysteries, and often we simply don’t understand. Or maybe things happen in our lives contrary to what we wanted or had planned. But during those times, we must remain like Gabriel—stalwart in our obedience. Understanding comes with time and patience.
4. Gabriel and a legion of angels fly toward earth on the vital mission of finding Mary. As they fly, Gabriel asks Sophio, an angel gifted with wisdom, to “whisper truth” to him as they fly. Sophio responds: “Lucifer is the father of lies. There is no truth . . . no truth in him. He comes to steal, kill, and destroy.”
If we all had someone whispering those words in our ears, we might be more inclined to follow God’s commandments! That is why we must learn to whisper them to ourselves. We know that Satan prowls about the world seeking to ruin souls. But sometimes it’s very difficult to see him. He comes in many shapes and forms. If we do not constantly remind ourselves that he is out to destroy our souls, we will fall prey to him.
5. God warns Gabriel: “As much as we seek to bring the Seed [Christ], so Satan seeks to destroy it.”
Satan would like nothing more than to defeat God. He attempts to do so every day. We see instances of his attempts all around us—in hatred, in jealousy, in threats against the dignity of human life, and so much more. We have all witnessed incidents where we know that someone is trying to thwart our attempts to plant that “seed” of Christ’s love. But, just as Gabriel had a legion of angels behind him, we too have that power behind us. And, like Gabriel, we must lean on our prayers and our faith to strengthen us.
6. Gabriel laments: “No words prepare you for Lucifer. Without speaking a word, he enchants. Without lifting a weapon, he disarms. Without a touch, he seduces.”
We know exactly what Gabriel means by this. Satan rarely comes in the form of a serpent-like monster, as he did in the book. He is much too clever for that. He knows that the way into our hearts is through fun, selfishness, greed, and a plethora of vices. Satan makes sin look fun. He tempts and seduces us through others who claim that we should do what “feels good” or who try to convince us that we should put ourselves first. Again, we must heed the words of Sophio: “Lucifer is the father of lies. . . . He comes to steal, kill, and destroy.”
7. Gabriel tells the legion of angels protecting the pregnant Mary: “Hell does not want Immanuel born. Stay alert.”
As we look around our secular world today, we can see evidence of this all around us. There are people who don’t want Christ to be born. They certainly don’t want Christ to live. They don’t want to speak of Him. They mock those who worship Him. They even persuade us to kill His children. Like Gabriel, we can never let our guard down. We must remain alert, understanding that, at any point, an attack might be imminent.
8. Upon seeing Baby Jesus, Gabriel marveled: “Our minds were filled with Truth we had never before known. We became aware for the first time of the Father’s plan to rescue those who bear His name. . . . At once amazed and stunned, the eye of every angel went to one part of the child: the hands which would be pierced.”
As we read, we feel the anguish the angels feel when they suddenly realize God’s plan for His Son. They gaze upon Him in wonder, and then this wonder encompasses sadness. As Christmas approaches and we think of the tiny baby in the manger, let us too, look at the hands of Baby Jesus. Let us not just see the nails that would pierce Him, but the hand of Our Lord who will hold it outstretched toward us when we leave our earthly home.
9. God’s voice told the angels of what would happen at the crucifixion and how the angels must do nothing to stop it. Sophio spoke with knowledge of God’s love: “He will be wounded for the wrong they did, crushed for the evil they did. The punishment which will make them well will be given to Him. They will be healed because of His wounds.”
Only then did Gabriel finally understand the words he read in God’s book at the beginning of the story: “Jesus. Nail. Cross. Blood. Tomb. Life.”
Christ comes next week to save us. Are we ready to receive this gift? Have we prepared well enough?
“What manner of love is this?” Michael the archangel asked, gazing upon the baby.
It is a love we can only begin to comprehend.