By Stephen Leonard
“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
This second week of Advent the angels make up the Christmas story. Mostly you do not see Angels. They remain largely incognito to your eyes. Certainly, there are those who have seen angels as the Scriptures record. A selected group of shepherds, for instance, saw and heard them just outside Bethlehem over two thousand years ago.
And Hebrews 13:2 recounts that you certainly might even see an angel when showing hospitality to strangers. Of course, you are unaware you are doing so except by faith.
An Angel of the Lord was suddenly seen and heard at night by shepherds watching sheep outside Bethlehem. The angel’s dramatic appearance threw fear into their hearts. At the same time, it says “the glory of the Lord shone all around them.”
Whatever “the glory of the Lord” was along with this surprising Angel, caused them to terribly shake. But the Angel sought to calm their fears with an announcement of great joy to them and, indeed, to the whole world; though certainly not known by the world yet.
He proclaimed that that very night the long-awaited Messiah had finally come! The One for which Israel yearned for literally thousands of years! And this small gathering of shepherds would have front row seats at His cradle.
This babe, yet a newborn infant, would be a Savior and Lord to countless people of every race and language, to every kind and status of people. He would bring to them the long-desired peace for which all people hungered: peace in their hearts, if not in their fallen world.
The Angel of the Lord was suddenly surrounded by a huge host of angels singing a most glorious song of praise: “Gloria in excelis Deo! Glory to God in the highest!” Along with what He alone brings to you: Peace! Peace from the guilty burden of sin and the healing peace of ended separation from their Maker and Triune God. But the peace given is not universal. Only to those, it is said, with whom He is pleased.
The shepherds wasted no time in hurrying to the Baby’s side. They believed all they had been told! Their response confirmed it. They were unable to remain silent after. They not only told everyone they met, but those who heard their report were wont to believe it or at the very least contemplate the truth of what these eyewitnesses had seen and experienced.
The Angel messengers accomplished their God-sent mission. They proclaimed the joyful announcement to the world through a small group of shepherds who convinced their hearers that what they saw and heard was true. It was a totally unique means of communication from the unique and only God! No one is like Him in all the world.
The Angel of the Lord and the angel hosts were not sent to Jerusalem nor Rome nor any other world Capitol to deliver this earth-shattering announcement. No, they were sent to a small group of shepherds outside tiny Bethlehem where centuries earlier the Prophet Micah had prophesied accurately that the Messiah would be born.
Not many people on earth knew it when it happened, but today the message has gone continuously in every age all over this world because of the Word of God. Jesus, the Son of God, was born in Bethlehem. And the world past and present knows it!
“Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness!Light and life to all He brings, ris’n with healing in His wings. Mild He lays His glory by, born that man no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth. Hark! the herald angels sing, ‘Glory to the new-born King.’”
(3rd verse of Charles Wesley’s Carol, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” 1739)