Monday, December 23, 2013

Advent Reflections: Angels

A couple of years ago, I wrote out a self-published e-book of Advent Devotions. You can still buy it from here: Advent Reflections. However, I’m going to re-use the whole thing for daily blog posts here on the blog this year. This week features double-posts to finish by Christmas.

Hymn numbers are from the 2008 Baptist Hymnal/Worship Hymnal from Lifeway.

Week Four Day Four: Angels

“And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.” Luke 2:9 (NASB95)

Yes, week four is for people. No, angels are not people. Not now, not ever, no matter what the movies show[1] us. The Christmas story needs the angels, though. So, let us take a look at angels and see what we can about them.

First, to address the angels are not people line. This is true as far as can be told from Scripture. It appears in Scripture that angels are created as angels and people are created as people. Eternity does not see that line blur or dissipate. Through it all, the angelic beings retain their distinction from the human ones.

That is not to say that angels are not important. Throughout Scripture, angels pop up to share God’s messages or reinforce the grandeur of His presence. They serve as the army of God in ways that people never do and work to accomplish His purposes. In the Christmas story, angels bring messages to Mary and Joseph, and proclaim the birth of Jesus to the shepherds.

Throughout the whole story, angels are there. Angels go hand-in-hand with the Christmas story. The nativity scene needs its angels, the Christmas pageant needs one or two, and the songs about angels are, perhaps not legion, but many. Congregational singing has many more songs about angels than about Joseph.

Yet the most significant story in the Bible is one where the angels are conspicuously absent. The heavenly host that proclaimed “Glory to God in the Highest” is silent. The warriors who protected Elisha are nowhere to be seen. The sky is dark and no radiant angels illuminate it.

It is a day somewhere around thirty-three years after Christmas. The baby from the manger that caused so much exaltation is now the man on the Cross. Jesus, whose incarnation, was celebrated that Christmas is now dying for the sins of the world. Rather than angelic light turning night into day, rather than an extra star in the skies, the sun is obscured and darkened.

The angels could have stopped it at the command of Christ.[2] He did not command them. He went to the Cross for you and for me. When we have a moment to consider the minor happenings behind the great grace that is the Cross, consider this: the angels obeyed God’s will to do nothing that day. And it saved us all.

Action is a part of our life and obedience. Our action, though, must always be in obedience. The old saying of “Let’s do something, even if it’s the wrong thing” cannot be the rallying cry of the Christian. Like the angels of old, let us do when commanded and do not when commanded as well.

Scripture passage for the day: Luke 2:14 (KJV)

Glory to God in the highest,

And on earth peace,

Good will toward men.

Hymn for the day: Angels We Have Heard on High#184

Additional reading: Originally published as Cosmic Christmas, though now republished as An Angel’s Story, Max Lucado wrote a fascinating story looking at Christmas from a different perspective. No, it’s not Scripture. However, while it strains the imagination it does not put more strain on the text than can be borne. Reading it is worth your time. If you can find a copy.

Prayer: Lord, what can I say? There are realities and beings that I do not fully understand. What I do know is this: Jesus is the One who died for me, the One who rose again. I will follow Him and trust Him to command the angels as He sees fit. I also commit myself to act and wait as You direct. Let all my action glorify Christ, in whose name I pray, Amen.

[1] Yes, I like It’s a Wonderful Life. No, entertainment media is not a good source of theology.

[2] Matthew 26:53

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