Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing o’er the plains!
As my thoughts turned to Angels and Christmas I must admit this chorus rang over and over in my head. I have always loved Christmas angels. The ones that are tree toppers down to the ornaments hanging on the tree. I love Angel decorations of all shapes and sizes. While I do believe that angels are everywhere all the time, they always come to my mind when thinking of all things Christmas. After all angels were the first messengers of Jesus birth. And I think it is very significant that the message every time they appeared began with instruction to not fear.
The first encounter I want to talk about was announcing another miraculous birth.
“And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zecharaiah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid Zecharaiah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.’” Luke 1:11-13
I love the kindness of God to have Elizabeth and Mary both have miraculous birth experiences at the same time. There were differences no doubt as we know Jesus was God’s son. But there were miracles surrounding Elizabeth’s age and we know that John was set apart to play a role in Jesus adult life as well.
“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said ‘Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!’ But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.’” Luke 1:26-30
Can you imagine a young girl getting a message like that. One thing that I think is important to note here is God didn’t send just any old angel to Mary, this angel had a name. Which who knows maybe all angels have a name. But we only know of three. The archangel Michael, the fallen angel whose name we will not capitalize, satan, (I actually like Lisa Harpers name for him “that lying lizard”) and Gabriel. God sent a special angel to Mary to give her message.
In the book of Matthew we see Josephs encounter with the angel.
When Joseph first found out about about Mary being with child from the Holy Spirit, he would have been completely within his earthly rights to divorce her. Because he was a just man and didn’t want to shame her he was going to at least do it quietly.
“But as he considered these things, behold, an angel fo the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.’” Matthew 1:20
The angel told him do not fear. Humanly speaking the situation these two found themselves in could bring about a whole lot of fear. Think about it, their communities knew they weren’t married, they were betrothed but this meant like an engagement period. And yet, Mary was with child. Can you imagine the talk, the gossip. Joseph may have had to deal with people coming to him and encouraging him to divorce her. I think of what this young couple must have had to endure. I bet they had to many times over remind themselves of the angels message “do not fear”.
And then God sent a multitude of angels to announce the birth of His son to the shepherds.
“And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!.’” Luke 2:10-14
Angels are God’s set apart beings that have many various tasks. They are not to be worshipped as that is reserved for God and His Son Jesus. But they were the first messengers of Christmas. And the message that they gave along with the most glorious birth announcement was “Fear Not!” What do you have that you are fearing today? A diagnosis, a job loss, an uncertain relationship, many people are fearing how they will rebuild their lives after the devastating storms this past weekend. I can’t even imagine. As we continue in this Christmas season I pray that you will be able to hang onto that message from the angels because I believe that message is for us all, not just the players in the part of the Christmas story. No matter what you may be fearing this Christmas season I pray you can hang onto the words of the angels that brought the first messages of Jesus’ birth to Fear Not!