Angels and Christmas go together like milk and cookies. Hymns exalt their voices as in “Angels We Have Heard on High.” Christmas trees festooned with lights and ornaments are often crowned with an angel. Tears well up in our eyes each year as we watch Clarence, the angel in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” finally receive his wings after saving George Bailey from suicide.
Real biblical angels bring fear and trembling, not warm fuzzy feelings. In the Bible, those who conversed with angels were told, “Fear not.” Hagar, Gideon, Elijah and Daniel all had friendly encounters that began in fear. Surrounding the Lord’s birth, Mary, Joseph and the shepherds enjoyed visitations from angelic beings. They initially cowered in fear, but when the messenger imparted the Good News, they each felt unspeakable joy. The very first Christmas was filled with angels—no wonder our holidays are filled with them today. We are reminded that the herald angels sang, “Glory to the Newborn King!”
Lift Up …
Lord, help me to relive the joy of my salvation during the season of the Messiah’s birth. I praise you for sending the Prince of Peace to the world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Look At …
Luke’s Gospel began 400 years after the last appearance of an Old Testament prophet. The removal of God’s light caused darkness to envelop several realms: Spiritually, Israel’s religious leaders became shackled by tradition, leading to callousness and corruption. Herod the Great polluted the land with pagan gods. Politically, Herod, an oppressive tyrant, commanded the murder of all male children under the age of 2 in Bethlehem. Economically, Herod relentlessly conscripted Israeli slaves to build his mansions, cities and temples. The Israeli people were oppressed, poor and helpless. Where was the Messiah, their Deliverer?
Against this dark background Luke writes his illuminating narrative. Light explodes on the horizon as fireworks on the Fourth of July. Angels made appearances. Miraculous births occurred. Men and women “full of the Holy Spirit” uttered amazing prophecies. God had not forgotten His people or His promises. Redemption through the Savior was near.
READ LUKE 2:7-15
And she [Mary] brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock 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. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, 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, goodwill toward men!” So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”
- Describe the accommodations for the Babe and explain how they came to be.
- Circle the word you in the angel’s prophecy. List the three things promised.
- Who joined the celebration? What words describe the emotional atmosphere?
- How did the shepherds respond to this heavenly apparition? To whom did they attribute these wonders?
Live Out …
- When Christ first came, there was no room at the inn. How have you made room for the Savior? Rewrite Revelation 3:20 into a prayer opening the door of your heart.
- God’s peace comes to those who know the Prince of Peace. Paul explains that the peace “which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts” (Philippians 4:7). Describe how Jesus has brought peace to your heart.
- Just as the shepherds searched out Christ to kneel at His feet, describe some ways you will seek out the Lord of glory this Christmas. Who will you take with you?
Before the Lord’s birth, society was shrouded in political, spiritual and economic darkness. The Jews awaited their Messiah for deliverance. Little did they know He would appear as the infant King. The lowly shepherds recognized Him, but royalty and religious leaders missed His manifestation. Today, our world appears as bleak as the time of Jesus’ first coming. Politics are corrupt. The economy has suffered a major downturn. And false spirituality runs rampant. The church longs for the return of Jesus to right all wrongs.
Make no mistake about it. Although the Lord has come—as a Babe in a manger—we can experience joy in the world, knowing that He will come again as Lord of lords and King of kings, and He shall rule and reign forever and ever.
Lenya Heitzig is a Bible teacher and author. She and her husband, Skip, started Calvary of Albuquerque, N.M., one of the fastest growing churches in the country.
Penny Rose is also a Bible teacher and is a co-author of several Bible studies, including the “Fresh Life Bible Study Series,” which she wrote with Lenya.