Sunday, December 8, 2013

When Angels Fold Their Wings ...

Christmas and sermons ... since I happen to sleep and do life with a pastor, I'm familiar with the holly and lilies crowd. There's one, at the most two, cracks at them a year. They only come Christmas and Easter.  So, the annual or biannual question is how to tell a wonderful old story in a new way.  And, for the rest of us we also hear the same wonderful old story in a new way!
Today we heard about angels and here's the shorter version:
Have you ever met an angel?  Do intelligent people believe in angels? We sing about angels at Christmas, but do we believe in angels?  Would we know one if one showed up?  What’s the angel side of Christmas?

There are 66 books in the Bible and more than half of them make reference to angels.  Angels are significant in the Biblical story.  Angels appear in Scripture as messengers, as protectors, and as watchers.   
Peter had a dramatic encounter with an angel recorded for us in Acts 12 when an angel sprung him out of the slammer!  Perhaps Peter was remembering his angel protector when he wrote 1 Peter 1:3-12:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.

Peter says the prophets wondered about the meaning of their own prophecies: where Jesus was going to be born (in Bethlehem) or what it meant that the Messiah was going to come as a light into darkness. Do you guess Isaiah understood what he was writing about a virgin and a child and a son to be given? 

Peter says it’s not only prophets who wonder, who scratch their heads and ask:  Apparently angels also wonder and think about the real message of Christmas!

What do we know about angels?

·       Angels are God’s heavenly messengers.  That’s what angel means – messenger.  Angels go back and forth from heaven to earth carrying messages from God Himself.  Angels visited Abraham and gave him the message that he was going to have a son.  An angel actually burned Isaiah’s mouth in Isaiah 6 when Isaiah tells the story of God calling him to be a prophet.
·       Angels are God’s front line of defense for us earthlings.  The most important role of angels is to serve God by defending the people of God.  Unnoticed God has sent His angel messengers to stand guard over you and me as He works in our lives and in the world. 2 Kings 6 records the attack on God’s people in Israel by the Arameans. Elisha’s servant got up one morning and saw a huge army with horses and chariots surrounding the city where he and Elisha lived. He was terrified. Elisha told him that God had the situation in hand. Elisha prayed and asked God to open his servant’s eyes to see the spirit world reality. The servant saw that the hills were full of horses and chariots of fire surrounding him and Elisha to protect them. The Psalmist says God gives His angels the mission "to guard you in all your ways" (Ps. 90:11). When Daniel was thrown to the lions God sent an angel to shut the lion's mouths. (Dan. 6:22) 
  • Angels are God’s heavenly watchers. What are they watching? They watch what goes on in heaven. They watch us. Some of these angel creatures have many more eyes than we do. They can watch more than one thing at a time. They watch what God Himself is doing. In Genesis 1 God says,  Let us make man in our image ….  Angels were there. They eavesdropped on the whispered conversation between God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Angels wonder what God is doing and what’s going to happen.  It must have been an amazing conversation for the angels to overhear! Do you guess they hushed their singing for a moment so they wouldn’t miss a single word? 
Imagine the watching angels! Can’t you almost hear the rustle of their wings? God said, Go! Go to Bethlehem. Sing your hearts out in the Bethlehem sky announcing the birth of My Son, the King of Israel!  And they did!  Angels were there when Jesus was tempted in the desert and in the Garden of Gethsemane when God sent a solitary angel to minister to Jesus in His hour of anguish.  Don’t you imagine how the angels must have been peering down from heaven watching in horror as Jesus hung on His cross? They must have been ready to take off in a flash when God spoke the word. But the word never came because Jesus had to die to become the Savior of the world!  Angels were there and were the first to see Jesus rise from the dead on the first Easter morning. Angels were there when Jesus went back to heaven.

I think there's something else angels wonder about. I think they are totally puzzled and ask among themselves:  WHY don’t they (meaning us, the earth creatures) realize what He’s done for them?   That just might be the greatest mystery of all to an angel.

Holy, holy is what the angels sing and I expect to help them make the courts of heaven ring!

But when I sing redemption’s story they will fold their wings, for angels never felt the joy

That our salvation brings!   --Johnson Oatman Jr., 1894

The good news of Christmas is that God has done something for us earthlings that his extra-terrestrial creatures (aka angels) can only imagine.  God sent Jesus to take care of our biggest problem - sin - and Jesus did just that!  The good news of Christmas is that this is all true – every last word!  Jesus is real! God is real! Angels are real!  And it's really, really true that God loves you and me far more than we can possibly imagine!

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