Glory in the highest to God, and on Earth peace among men of good will. Luke 2:14
Angel: 1). A spiritual being believed to act as an attendant, agent, or messenger of God (Oxford English Dictionary).
What did Mary see when the angel Gabriel appeared to her? What kind of being came with foreknowledge of a supernatural conception and with words that would change her identity forever? “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). How would the shepherds have described the angel with the glory of the Lord shining about? How could they encapsulate “a great company of the heavenly host,” whose voices poured out a sudden tidal wave of sound, a booming chorus?: “Glory to God in the highest!” (Luke 2:14). How would Joseph his own encounter with the angel? Or what would Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, say about their messengers? In the days leading up to the birth of Jesus, supernatural appearances and utterances were occurring like they never had before-an electric buzz of Heaven’s voices among us.
The real meaning of “angel” is simply, “messenger.” This reminds us that Christmas is about a message. It is a gospel, good news. The best news. And paving the way were powerful spiritual messengers whose very presence struck fear and awe in people (no pudgy, winged cherubs here). Their mission and their message transformed humankind-and we have never been the same.
This year, any one of us can probably think of a dozen cases in which we would like to hear a personal message from God. We have that message. It is a message individually suited to each of us, because it was sent to all of us. As the angel said to Joseph: “[Jesus] will save people from their sins.” The angels’ message from that cold night continues to ring through the atmosphere-centuries later, and it is as true as in its first utterance. In this mortal world that is at once be full of wonders, yet seized by sin and darkness: We have been saved.
I can’t help but envy the shepherds of the Christmas story. Of all the Christmas gifts that have ever been given, they hands-down received the best. They witnessed the declaration of Christ’s birth from a host of angels.
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” – Luke 2:8-20
I doubt you or I will ever be able to fathom what the shepherds experienced in those moments, but the wonder of the angel’s message still remains. Christ the Lord was born on earth, and his birth signaled the beginning of our freedom from sin. This Christmas season, don’t let cold weather or crazy shopping cause you to forget the splendor of the angel’s message. Instead, be like the shepherds, glorifying and praising God for all the things you have seen and heard. Glory in the highest!