The angel Gabriel, “the man of God,” was an integral part of the Christmas story. While Zechariah burned incense to the Lord, an angel appeared to him, telling him that God was going to answer the prayers of him and his wife and that they would have a son. Reminiscent of Abraham, Zechariah declared that he and his wife were too old to have a son. How could he believe this being? The answer was dramatic. “I am Gabriel, the one having stood and still standing in the presence of God.” The verb “to stand” is a perfect participle and emphasizes the continuing activity of standing in the presence of the Lord. This was the authority by which Gabriel declared his good news.
Six months later Gabriel returned, this time declaring to Mary that she was to be the mother of the Messiah. In the presence of Gabriel, Mary moved from fear and surprise to faith and acceptance.
Two other references to an angel are included in the birth story. In one an angel told Joseph what was happening to Mary; in the other an angel proclaimed the good news of the birth of Jesus to the angels. Were these Gabriel as well? We do not know, because no name is mentioned. Gabriel was not the focus of Luke’s narrative.
Gabriel was introduced to the Bible reader long before the birth of Christ, however. Gabriel appears twice in the book of Daniel. In Daniel 8: 15ff Gabriel explained to Daniel the events associated with the end times. In Daniel 9:20ff Gabriel came to Daniel as he prayed and again explained some of the eschatological events that will be associated with the end times.
Thus, the only two contexts in which Gabriel appears are the first coming and prophesies concerning the second coming of the Messiah.