LESSONS FROM ANGELS
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields near by, 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."
Have you ever wondered why God would send His heavenly angels to a bunch of poor, dirty, tired shepherds to announce the birth of Christ? I always say that God does what He does “on purpose for a purpose.” If that is the case, then what was His purpose in this? What were those shepherds supposed to learn from the angel’s announcement and, even more importantly, what are WE supposed to learn from their appearance? I think there are three very important answers to those questions:
1) God has a message that he wants the world to hear.
Jesus was born in a rather obscure place and at a time when world-wide communications simply didn’t exist. But God didn’t do it that way so the Christmas story would remain a secret; God wanted it announced. And it was announced with style! Not only did He send angels, He gave them the splendor of His own glory for a backdrop. The message was delivered to shepherds, but the news wasn’t just for them. The angel said: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for ALL THE PEOPLE.” And the shepherds obviously shared their story just as God intended. How do I know? Because we know what happened that night. The shepherd’s story was told and has been retold and retold and we are still telling the story today. You see, God spreads good news through simple means and ordinary people.
2) God’s message is about peace and joy.
Think about the angel’s first words: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy . . . a Savior has been born.” As you probably know, my favorite New Testament passage is Titus 3:4-5, “When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” Notice that the passage doesn’t say “it saved us,” it says “HE saved us.” The babe in the manger, the Christmas Child, IS the kindness and love of God made flesh to dwell among us and to be our Savior. Because of Him our fear gives way to faith, and faith to peace, and peace to joy.
3) God is worthy of our praise.
The angel came to announce God’s good news. But the company of angels came to praise and glorify God. “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest . . .” That is a lesson I hope we can all learn and put to practice this Christmas season. Oh, we don’t have trouble remembering to celebrate Christmas, but we can forget to praise and glorify God in the midst of all the celebration. I hope you will find an opportunity to join your voices to those of the angel chorus. Gloria in excelsis deo – Glory to God in the highest!
--- Pastor Keith Andrews