I have always liked to imagine what Jesus might have been like as a baby and how it might have been to be the mother of a baby who would one day grow up only to die. Jesus' purpose here on earth was to die. Did Mary know that as she rocked baby Jesus to sleep?
Having a baby of my own now has given me a different perspective of the Christmas story. I've always heard about Jesus' great sacrifice in leaving heaven to come to earth as a man, but when I think of him as a baby, the sacrifice becomes even greater in my mind. Jesus had to submit himself to the body of a human BABY! That is amazing to me! People joke about how babies have it so easy -- all they do is eat and sleep -- but if given the choice, would anyone want to actually go back to being a baby? Would you want to become physically dependent on another person to take care of your every need? How humiliating! Jesus, the Creator of the universe, had to rely on Joseph and Mary to feed him and bathe him and teach him how to walk and talk. He had to have cried as a baby because that is the only way he could communicate with his very human parents. He was their first child and they made mistakes. After all, Mary didn't have Baby Wise to guide her in setting up a schedule for him.
All joking aside, little Gabriel, in his own little way has helped me to relate better to the Christmas story. He has helped me understand how very real Jesus' presence was here on earth. As I stood backstage watching Gabriel being held by "Mary" and seeing the choir dressed as angels, surrounding him and singing, Oh Come Let Us Adore Him, I actually got a little misty-eyed as I imagined heaven's angels looking down on their King in the form of a human baby. Did they wonder what God was doing? Did they know about God's plan to rescue man from his sin? I'm sure it didn't matter. I know they were excited to come down to earth and proclaim the arrival of the Prince of Peace.
So yes, baby Gabriel played the role of baby Jesus. Maybe when he is older, he will play the role of his namesake, the messenger angel, and announce to the world the good news of God and his Son who came to redeem mankind. For now though, he is being used by God to teach his mother some important things about the real baby Jesus.