I wrote this story for the intergenerational Christmas Eve Service at Living Table United Church of Christ. Permission is given for use in worship services. You must include the following copyright statement: “Angels Bring Good News” © Rachael Keefe https://rachaelkeefe.wordpress.com For any other use, contact me.
Angels Bring Good News
A Story for Christmas Eve
(Before beginning, invite the congregation to respond as follows:
“Angel” or “Angels” say “OOOOOOO”
“Good News” say “AAHHHHH”
“Awesome” say “YES!”)
Long, long ago in a far-off place Alex had their twelfth birthday. Turning twelve meant that Alex would be matched with an older angel. Alex was a young angel who needed to learn how to do angel things. They hoped they would be matched with one of the older angels who got to all the important stuff. Well, being a messenger from God was always important. But, you know, some angels got to do the special things, the kind of things that changed everything for humans.
Alex got their wish. Alex was matched with Gabriel. Gabriel was important even among angels. Gabriel was the one God called to deliver all the really special messages. Alex was so excited they just couldn’t stay still. Alex spread their wings and zoomed all over the place. Gabriel was the best angel to learn from. This was going to be great!
The next day Alex went to Gabriel’s office. Gabriel wasn’t there, but there was a note on the desk with a few assignments for the near future. Alex was too curious to wait. Maybe it was something they could do and Gabriel could keep doing other things. Alex read the memo addressed to Gabriel:
Go to the priest, Zechariah, and tell him that he and his wife were going to have a baby.
When Zechariah doesn’t believe you, take his voice away until the baby is born.
“That’s just mean,” thought Alex. “Who would believe that angel would come to tell them that they are having a baby, even after it is too late to have a baby?” Alex decided to go visit Zechariah and make it easier on him.
Zechariah was hanging up his priestly robes when Alex found him. “Um, hi…” said Alex with uncertainty. Startled, Zechariah turned around.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“I am Alex. I am an angel.” Said Alex with a little more confidence.
“Right.” Said Zechariah with amusement. “Aren’t I supposed to be afraid?”
“I guess,” answered Alex. “I’m in training. So maybe not…”
“Okay. So what do you have to tell me?” Zechariah smiled at Alex. The priest was a kind person.
“Well, now that I’m here, I don’t know if I should tell you at all. Maybe I should just go.” Alex was nervous now.
“You’re here. You might as well tell me.” Zechariah was curious now.
“Oh, I should have waited for Gabriel,” Alex mutters to themselves, then says to Zechariah all in a rush, “You’re not going to believe Gabriel and he’s going to take your voice away and give you a baby.”
“What? You can’t be right. Angels bring good news, child. What you are telling me is not good news. I need my voice more than I need a baby.” Are you sure you have the message right?”
“No. Forget it. I’ll go. Gabriel will come. Goodbye!” said Alex quickly before disappearing.
Alex returned to Gabriel’s office to see Gabriel standing there looking a little bit angry. “Where have you been?” Gabriel demanded.
“I… I… I…” stammered Alex.
“Yes? I am waiting.” Gabriel was not happy.
While looking at the floor, Alex mumbled, “I went to Zechariah, like the memo said, but I messed it up.”
“Let me guess. Zechariah wasn’t afraid and you didn’t give him any good news, did you?”
Alex nodded and Gabriel said, “You go home. Come back tomorrow. I will go fix this.” And Gabriel vanished.
The next few days passed. Alex went to Gabriel’s office each day, but there were no more assignments. Instead, Alex had to read a book that was all about how to be a good angel. It said things like, “Angels are scary at first sight” and “Angels always bring good news.” Alex already knew these things. The book was very boring.
A week or so after the Zechariah incident, Alex once more found Gabriel’s office empty. There was another memo. This one read, “Keep trying to find a woman who will agree to having a holy baby. Try Mary who is betrothed to Joseph in Galilee.
Alex got excited. This was possibly, something that they couldn’t mess up. Why wouldn’t someone want to have a holy baby? Without thinking any more about it, Alex went to Mary.
Mary was sweeping her porch steps when Alex arrived. Mary jumped a little and said, “Who are you?”
“I’m Alex. I’m an angel. Did I scare you?”
“You startled me, but no I’m not scared. You look like a nice angel.”
Alex was disappointed that they weren’t scary at first sight. Alex took a breath and said, “I’m hear to bring you good news.”
“Okay,” said Mary, not so sure she wanted to hear it.
“Gabriel is looking for someone who will have a holy baby. And you’re the next one to be asked. You want a baby, right? I mean, who wouldn’t? Especially a holy baby. I mean, you want to right?” Alex was babbling again.
“No!” Mary said quite shocked. “I am not ready to have a baby, holy or not. This is not good news at all. You’re not a very good angel. You should go.”
Alex hesitated. Then shook their head and mumbled, “Sorry” before disappearing.
Gabriel was waiting for Alex this time. “What did you do? Were you terrifying at first sight? Did you bring good news? Did you get Mary to agree?”
Alex stared at the floor and whispered, “No… I…”
Gabriel looked at Alex. “You had better keep reading that book while I go fix this. We need Mary to say yes. There are no more likely options.” Gabriel disappeared.
Alex did as they were told. They read the book again and again. But the book didn’t tell how to be terrifying or how to make the news good. It just said that angels did these things. Alex wasn’t very good at being an angel. Maybe it would get better?
A few more weeks go by with nothing exciting to do. Alex read the book and Gabriel asked Alex a lot of questions about what was in the book. Alex grew bored again. Then it happened. There was another day when Gabriel was out and there was a memo on the desk. This memo read:
Go to Joseph in Galilee and tell him not to divorce Mary. Tell him that God chose him to to raise Mary’s child. Get him to understand that the child is God’s and his name will be Jesus. Jesus will be Emanuel, God-with-us. It’s important that Joseph understand this.
“A dream,” Alex thought, “I can do that.” And off to Joseph’s dream Alex went.
It was a nice dream Joseph was having. The sun was out and he was fishing in the river, relaxing. “Hi, Joseph,” said Alex. “Mind if I fish with you.” Joseph nodded and invited Alex to sit nearby.
“I have news for you,” said Alex, cautiously. “You have to stay with Mary. She is going to have God’s baby and God needs you to help take care of him. And call him Jesus… or Emanuel… I am not sure which.”
Joseph just stared at Alex. “Uhoh,” said Alex. “I’ve done it again…”
“Am I dreaming?” asked Joseph.
“Yes, you are,” replied Alex. “You keep dreaming; I’m going to go.”
“But you said you had good news. I didn’t hear any good news from you!” Joseph wasn’t happy.
“I’ve got to go!” said Alex before vanishing from Joseph’s dream.
When Alex returned to Gabriel’s office, Gabriel waited with expectation. Alex just shook their head.
Gabriel smiled. “No fear? No good news? You didn’t quite deliver this time, either. Right?”
Gabriel still smiled. “Don’t worry kid. You’ll get it. You have to believe that you are truly a messenger from God Most High. You have to believe that you have good news to deliver. You have to believe that being in your presence is always as frightening to humans as being in the presence of God. Have a little confidence. You can do this. In the meantime…”
Alex interrupted, “Yeah, I know, keep reading…” At this Gabriel disappeared to go fix Joseph’s dream.
Again, weeks passed. Nothing special happened, but things with Alex started to change. Alex’s wings grew bigger. Alex’s halo shined brighter. And most impressively, if Alex really concentrated, they could glow with a fierce, brilliant light. Maybe Alex would make a good angel after all.
One morning Alex flew into Gabriel’s office to find Gabriel holding a memo. “This is it, kid. This is your big break. You can’t mess this up. You’re going to go first and then back up will come in. There’s no way you mess this up.”
Alex looked at Gabriel amazed. “You want me to go in your place?”
Gabriel nodded. “It’s time. You just have to remember a few things.”
Alex responded, “What if I can’t do it?”
“You can. Just believe in yourself.” Said Gabriel.
Alex read the memo:
Go to the shepherds in the fields outside of Bethlehem at night. Be AWESOME. After they stop being afraid, tell them the good news. Tell them where to find the Child. Make sure they get it and run to find Mary, Joseph, and the baby. Wait for the heavenly host, the great number of angels to join in singing.
Alex wanted to go, but wasn’t sure that they should. This was a really important job and they weren’t very good at being awesome or bringing good news. “I can’t do this,” they said to Gabriel.
“Yes, you can,” said Gabriel. You just have to remember the basics. You know them, don’t you?”
“Yes,” said Alex. “First I shine with brilliant, fierce light so the humans are filled with terrifying awe.” Gabriel nodded. “Second, I bring good news. Angels always bring good news.”
“What else?” asked Gabriel.
Alex shook their head.
“Believe in yourself.” And the next thing Alex knew was that they were in the night sky, with an enormous star shining over a stable in Bethlehem.
Alex began to look for the shepherds in the fields all the while saying over and over again, “Be awesome. Bring good news. Be awesome. Bring good news. Be awesome. Bring good news.” Just as Alex spotted the shepherd in the fields, they heard a voice (that sounded a lot like Gabriel) saying, “You are messenger of God Most High. Believe yourself.”
Then Alex appeared to the shepherds in the fields outside of Bethlehem and concentrated on shining with the fiercest fierce brilliance ever. When Alex saw that all the shepherds were afraid, they said, “Do not be afraid! I bring you good news of great joy to all the earth!” The shepherds actually listened to Alex and Alex almost laughed out loud. Instead, they continued, “A child is born this day in the city of David, a Savior. You will find him lying in a manger.”
Suddenly, the sky filled with other angels who sang out in joy, “Glory to God in the highest heaven! Peace to all on earth! Alex went right up behind the shepherds and told them to go to Bethlehem to see this amazing child.
Then it was over. Alex was back in Gabriel’s office.
“Congratulations! You’ve done it! You are now an official angel. You’ll get your own assignments from here on out.
Alex was shocked. “Really? Why? How?”
Gabriel laughed and said, “You’ve learned the most important lessons: You’re awesome! And…
Alex joined with Gabriel, “Angels bring good news!”
Photo: CC0 image by Jason Goh