Each year as Advent begins the new Church year, I am drawn to one of my most favorite hymns.
The angel Gabriel from heaven came,
his wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame;
“All hail,” said he, “thou lowly maiden Mary,
most highly favored lady,” Gloria!
The Hymnal 1982, #265
The archangel Gabriel is a bridge between the Old and New Testament. Gabriel transcends time and space and appears in dreams and visions in both the Old and New Testaments. (Haden,2010)
In Daniel Chapter 8, we find Daniel trying to interpret a vision.
In the third year of King Belshazzar’s reign, I, Daniel, had a vision, after the one that had already appeared to me. In my vision I saw myself in the citadel of Susa in the province of Elam; in the vision I was beside the Ulai Canal. I looked up, and there before me was a ram with two horns, standing beside the canal, and the horns were long….
New International Version (NIV), Daniel 8: 1-3
As Daniel experienced this vision, he saw a person standing before him and a voice calling, “Gabriel, tell this man the meaning of this vision.” (Daniel8:16) Gabriel reveals and brings reassurance as well as interprets dreams and visions.
Zachariah was also visited by Gabriel,
The angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zachariah;
Your prayer has been answered. Your wife Elizabeth will bear a son and you are to give him the name John… I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God…”
NIV, Luke 1:13-19
Zachariah’s response was just like what our response to a dream or vision might be: “How can I be sure of this?”
Joseph was visited by Gabriel in a dream, aswe will hear in the Gospel reading on the fourth Sunday in Advent.
…an angel ofthe Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do notbe afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her isfrom the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, andyou are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people fromtheir sins.”
And what did Joseph do? When Joseph woke up, he did what the angelof the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. Imagine thepossibilities if we followed the guidance of our dreams – our Lettersfrom God? (Haden, Unopened Letters from God, 2010)
And finally, Gabriel visits Mary as we read inthe Gospel of Luke.
…the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor withGod. You will conceive and give birth to a son,and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Sonof the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his fatherDavid, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; hiskingdom will never end.”
And Mary asks…..”How can this be…..” and then replies, “I am the Lord’sservant,” “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Mary embraces this vision and follows the path revealed.
I think it is important to note that Gabriel says to Zachariah, Joseph and Mary, “Do not be afraid.” Fear can keep us from embracing the wisdom of our dreams and visions, even though we know that our dreams come for our health and wholeness – every time. As Jeremy Taylor reminds us – A dream never comes to tell us something we already know, and the dreamer is the only one who can say with certainty what meanings a dream holds (p. 3).
If you are looking for a way to honor this season of Advent – a beautiful time of longing, expectation, and even surprise– I encourage you to begin keeping a dream journal. Allow yourself to slow down a bit before jumping out of bed in the morning to recall dreams, images and symbols. (When we jump right out of bed into our day, dreams, symbols and images can be easily forgotten!) After you get out of bed, take a few minutes to journal your dream – first person. Don’t worry about not remembering the whole dream or about missing a part of the dream, just journal every part you do remember, or even just the image or symbol revealed to you in your dream. Notice what symbols, images and metaphors are revealed to you. And remember, Do not be afraid—dreams come to us for our health and wholeness every time, and never come to tell us something we already know.
Gabriel of high degree,
he was sent from the Trinity,
to Nazareth in Galilee.
He met a maiden in that place;
there he knelt down before her face and said,
“Hail Mary, full of grace.”
The Hymnal 1982, #266
Some useful references:
Haden, R.L. (2010). Unopened letters from God: A workbook for individuals and groups. Haden Institute Publishing, NC.
Taylor, J. (2009). The wisdom of your dreams.Warner Books, NY.