Christmas Characters: Angels
By Bryan Crotts
When you read the Bible cover to cover, certain verses stand out and grab your attention. I have several throughout my Bible that I’ve marked. These passages seem to have a brighter bulb than the ones around them.
One of these bright lights is in 1 Peter 1, where Jesus’ disciple spends the opening of his letter to scattered Christians writing about the blessings of being found in the rescuing arms of God. He speaks of the Old Testament prophets looking into the coming of Jesus and studying salvation with great interest. And then the verse with the brighter bulb shines out: “things into which angels long to look.”
God’s mighty messengers of heaven desired to peek into the details of God’s redemption of man. The salvation of sinful man was an exciting topic for them. Through the history of redemption, angels have enjoyed a front row seat to God’s saving acts. Angels told Abraham of the future birth of the child of promise (Genesis 18). When Jacob fled angry Esau, angels appeared in his dream alongside God, who promised to be with and bless him (Genesis 28). The Angel of the LORD dealt with Sodom (Genesis 19), Egypt (Exodus 11-12), and a massive Assyrian army (2 Kings 19). Angels were present at creation (Job 38) and are part of the royal audience of God in heaven (Isaiah 6, Revelation 4-5). We can assume that when the Father gives the nod to the Son (Matthew 24) to return in glory, judgment, and marriage, that the angels will witness the opening of the sky as they are sent to gather those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ.
Angels play a significant part in the Christmas story, appearing to Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, and the Shepherds.
While Zechariah is performing his priestly duties in the sacred portion of the temple, he finds himself alone with Gabriel (Luke 1). This angel of the Lord rattled the old priest and made him rightly afraid. The messenger from the throne of glory announced the birth and ministry of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Messiah.
The same Gabriel, God’s best, brightest, and highest angel, is sent to the lowliest servant of God. Mary of Nazareth lives in an obscure town in a secluded valley in Israel. God brings news of the saving work of Jesus and her part in the drama of redemption!
Engaged to young Mary, Joseph finds himself in a religious and moral dilemma (Matthew 1). How should he deal with pregnant Mary, his wife-to-be? Should he divorce her? God’s angel comforts and assures the carpenter to take Mary as his wife. No scandal! Their child would save God’s people from their sins.
The unsuspecting shepherds met with a bright angel who announced to them the birth of the Good Shepherd. I love watching Linus walk to center stage and recite the story of the shepherds and angels in answer to Charlie Brown’s ultimate question, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” He uses the old authorized version of the Bible, which says, “and they were sore afraid.” (Luke 2) A chorus of angels, probably vast in numbers, noise and brightness, appeared with the angel to sing before the herdsmen, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
An angel warned Joseph to flee Herod’s wrath and the local genocide of baby boys. After the tyrant’s death, an angel instructed the family to leave Egypt and return to the Promised Land (Matthew 2). They went home to Nazareth where the boy would “increase in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52)
It is significant that angels appear in the Scriptures at the entrance to the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). God banished Adam and Eve from His garden sanctuary. Their sin separated them from God. Cherubim, which are angels usually associated with God’s presence (Exodus 25), blocked entry along with a flaming and independently turning sword. There was no getting back to God!
Until the birth of the eternal Son of God as a man, that is! Jesus, the second Adam (Romans 5, 1 Corinthians 15), would fulfill all righteousness. Where Adam failed, Jesus would obey. The result is for those who put their faith in Christ, God “will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7)