FIRST-PERSON: Those adoring angels
EL CAJON, Calif. (BP) -- How we love to unpack the nativity set each year and carefully place each piece in just the right place around the manger -- Mary and Joseph, the baby Jesus in swaddling clothes, and the shepherds kneeling alongside. The scene is comforting.
Perhaps the least understood figures of the nativity scene are the angels. Many don't understand their crucial importance in this scene. We often place them in the background, when in reality they had a key role in the events leading up to that night.
Preparing for Jesus
As all the events of history were moving into proper place for the birth of the Messiah, "when the fullness of time had come …" (Galatians 4:4), angels were sent to prepare people on the earth for His arrival. The Son of God did not steal into the world in total obscurity. The angels were to be God's messengers from heaven.
Angels appeared to Mary and Joseph to prepare this young mother and inexperienced father to be the parents of the Savior of the world. Specifically, it was the angel Gabriel who visited Mary, according to Luke 1:26-27.
When Mary was afraid, Gabriel took time to calm her fears. "Do not be afraid, Mary," he said, "for you have found favor with God" (Luke 1:30). He then proceeded to tell her the wondrous news. Later, the angel Gabriel visited Mary to bring her the astonishing news that she would bear God's Son. Mary learned that though she was a virgin, she would bear a son. Gabriel proclaimed that Mary's Son would be royalty, that His name would be Jesus, and that His life would have great purpose.
As extraordinary as the news was to Mary, it would be even more astounding to Joseph. So an angel came to him in a dream, preparing him to accept the role that God had planned for him. This angel, who may very well have been Gabriel but is not named in Scripture, soothed any fears this sincere and just young man may have had: "Do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit," the angel said. "And she will bring forth a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:20, 21). Joseph was surely moved by his encounter with the angel, for after he had been visited in the dream, the Scriptures tell us that Joseph sat up, now very wide awake, and did all that the angel had told him to do.
Announcing His Birth
After preparing Mary and Joseph for the birth of Jesus and enlisting their cooperation in God's divine plan, the angels broke news of His birth to the rest of the world through its most humble citizens -- shepherds. Angels invaded the night sky above the shepherds who were attending their flocks and told them the news of Jesus' birth in a stable nearby. The familiar verses put it this way: "Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid" (Luke 2:8,9).
It is impossible for our Christmas pageants or even the special effects of a Hollywood movie to capture the sheer magnificence of this moment or to express its splendid irony. The glorious angels of Almighty God were dispatched from heaven to alert the world that His only Son had arrived; yet they would herald this news to the lowly shepherds of the field. God didn't choose a human messenger to do this, though He could have. He didn't send one of the prophets. Instead, He sent angels winging from heaven to earth, praising God and saying those famous words, "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace and good will to all men!" (Luke 2:14)
As quickly as they had come, the angels were gone, "away from them into heaven," according to Luke 2:15. God's mighty messengers broke through the dark of the night with the tidings that would shatter spiritual darkness thereafter, and then they went back to heaven.
Reason for the Season
If the angels adored Jesus, how much more should we, who have been saved by Him, overflow with love and adoration this Christmas? He saved us from sin, He washed us clean, and He has given us the promise of eternal life forever with Him.
Join with the angels and worship Him this Christmas.