Calvin Miller’s “A Gathering of Angels” was originally published in Breakaway, December 2006 prior to being included in The Book of Jesus.
Christmas Eve had come at last. Gabriel and Michael sat talking.
“What time is it, Gabriel?” asked Michael. Gabriel looked down at a rather immense calendar watch, studied it a moment and looked back up.
“It’s exactly the 14th year of Augustus . . . you know, annus quattuordecimus, as these Romans say.”
“No, no, no! I want it in the new time. I can’t remember! Is it B.C. or A.D.?”
Gabriel looked again at the big watch.
“It’s about time for the changeover! Tonight at midnight, the Lord God puts the new star in that elliptical orbit that passes over Bethlehem . . . then all the angels have to set their watches ahead to A.D.”
Michael scratched his head.
“A.D.? What’s that mean?”
“How do I know what it means? The Lord God’s the only one who knows everything. I think it stands for some more of those Roman words, anno Domini or something like that. Anyway, it just means Jesus Time. The whole world is going to use it; it all becomes official as soon as the Lord God takes the brakes off that new star.”
Michael cautiously ventured one final question: “Look, Gabriel, how are they coming on that new star?”
Gabriel looked excited.
“I just flew by the Star Foundry yesterday. Mike, this is going to be a big one. Bright, too. You remember how all the angels were wearing sunglasses when the Lord God started dumping the hydrogen in Andromeda? Well, this one’s bigger and brighter. It makes Halley’s comet look like a sulfur match.”
“Never mind, Michael. They’re pumping the hydrogen now. This is going to be some star. It’s gonna slam smack into the middle of the constellation Pisces. There are some astrologers out in the desert at a big stargazers convention. Those guys are really in for a surprise. Remember how mixed up they were during the last meteorite shower? Think what it’ll do to their charts when Redeemer 1 comes a-slicin’ through the sky.”
Michael beamed. “Redeemer 1. . . . I like that. Is that what they’re calling it: Redeemer 1?”
“That’s what it is, Michael.”
“Man, what a name for the Jesus star! Say, speaking of Jesus, where is he, Gabe?”
“Still tucked up under the heart of Mary, but not for long. Mike, I’m so excited!”
“Me too. I’ve been practicing the Christmas music all day long. I hate scaring those shepherds like we’re going to have to do. Still, I know I can’t hold my song past midnight.”
“Me either, Gabe. I understand the whole anthem is going to be in Aramaic. Of course, I really sing it best in Latin—you know, like Gloria in excelsis Deo. But you know the Lord God. Those shepherds don’t know a word of Latin, so we’re going to do the whole thing in Aramaic.”
“Man, this is some anthem. I can’t remember. Is it double p or double f on the refrain?” he asked, studying the sheet music.
“Triple f. We start out loud; and we just keep the whole piece a-swelling. I have the tenor obbligato. Crashing crescendo, it is going to be quite a night. Still, why is time draggin’ so? Will A.D. never get here?”
Meanwhile, Down Below
Michael paused and walked a few steps and looked over the crystal balustrades.
“Look, Gabriel. See the little couple down there? They’ve been traveling for three days.”
Gabriel leaned out and looked over. He struggled to fight back tears before he spoke. “He’s been to all six inns in the city. She’s in so much pain she can hardly stand it. She’s only 18, and this is her first baby. How time flies! I was just down in Nazareth nine months ago talking to her. She’s a beautiful girl. You wanna hear the song she wrote, Michael? It was pretty good for an earthling.
. . . . . My soul glorifies the Lord
. . . . . and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
. . . . . for he has been mindful
. . . . . of the humble state of his servant.
. . . . . From now on all generations will call me blessed,
. . . . . for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.
. . . . . His mercy extends to those who fear him,
. . . . . from generation to generation. (Luke 1.46-50)
Gabriel stopped. Michael went on, “Wow that’s some poetry, Gabe. When did she write that?”
“Right after she found out that she was going to be the mother of the Messiah.”
“Look! Gabriel, they’re going toward the stable. It must be getting time.”
“It’s time all right! Say, what’s the name of that unfriendly place?”
“It’s Bethlehem. Why?”
“Bethlehem? Why in the world Bethlehem? I mean, why not Athens or Rome or Thebes? Where’s this Bethlehem, anyway?”
“It’s about six miles from Jerusalem; that’s where King David was from.”
“Couldn’t it be somewhere more cosmopolitan than Bethlehem?”
“I suppose the Lord God could have picked a bigger place, but after all, this isn’t a world’s fair, you know. Besides, half a millennium or so back, Micah said it would have to be Bethlehem. You know Micah, don’t you?”
“Well, of course, I know Micah, doesn’t everyone? I just saw him and Jeremiah and a couple of the minor prophets the other day. But I didn’t know he said it would have to be Bethlehem.”
“I even heard him telling a couple of the younger cherubim the way.”
“The way where?”
“The way to Bethlehem. He was real insistent to them. Told them to watch their altitude and steer clear of Mount Hermon. ‘Set the glide pattern at 30,000 feet,’ he said, ‘and fly left at Damascus.’”
It Is Time
“Say, what’s that light?”
“Wow, Gabe, look. It’s Redeemer 1. Better get into your choir robe.” Quickly Gabriel slipped into his choir robe.
“Can I set my watch on A.D. now?” he asked.
“Not yet, Gabe! Not yet!”
Gabriel looked as if he was about to burst. In a nervous minute, he asked again.
“Please, can I set my watch now, Mike?”
“Shhh! Not yet, Gabe. Now be quiet.”
Redeemer 1 rolled out into the night sky and spilled its light.
Everything was all golden!
It was magnificent!
Down below, the astrologers panicked in the splendor of the light.
Nervously Gabriel continued to play with the stem of his watch, 10,000 angels stood in rapt attention waiting for the downbeat of the Aramaic anthem.
Far to the left of Damascus, the shepherds gazed out into the night silently. The universe was hushed. Nothing moved.
Then the great Lord God of all the universe raised His hand, and the great Redeemer 1 rolled right over Bethlehem. The prophet Micah beamed from ear to ear. And the Lord God dropped His hand.
And distinctly every angel heard a faint redeeming sound above the sleeping world. At that very moment when God dropped His hand, they heard it. A baby cried!
And Gabriel set his watch to run a billion years on Jesus Time.