Many angels surrounded the events of the birth of Christ. First, the angel Gabriel announced to Zachariah that he would have a son (Luke 1:11-20). Elizabeth became pregnant with John the Baptist at an unnatural age (Luke 1:23) She accepted a visit from her relative Mary (Luke 1:39-45). Mary has an incredible story to tell. The angel Gabriel had also visited her and announced that she would be pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth’s child acknowledges Him from within the womb. Have you ever thought about that? These two in utero infants recognize one another! (An interesting view into when life begins if ever there was one!) If Mary wasn’t quite sure about the angel and the visitation, she must have been once Elizabeth confirmed that the child was holy by another supernatural child.
Meanwhile, Joseph was struggling with the fact that his fiancée was pregnant, and he knew he could not be the father. Another angel came to him in a dream to reassure him that Mary’s pregnancy was truly a special event like none other (Matthew 1:11-18). Maybe he remembered the scripture Isaiah 7:14: a virgin would be with child, called Immanuel. A fantastical claim in the Old Testament had come to fruition in the New Testament.
Then the birth takes place in Bethlehem at the height of tax season and no room at the inns. Motel 6 would have had the light on for them, y’know. Mary and Joseph must have wondered why it seemed God had abandoned them when the time for his son to be born arrived. However, more angels appear out in the fields to tired, restless shepherds, the unclean, underclass ones (Luke 2:8-15). Not just one, a multitude of the heavenly host filling the night sky! Can you even imagine this? They find Mary, Joseph, and Jesus and tell their story. Luke says Mary treasured all these things in her heart. God hadn’t abandoned them; after all, the child was His Son (Luke 2:15-20).
Skip ahead maybe two years. Magi from the East arrive (read strange looking men arrive at the door), telling the story about a new star in the sky that appeared on Jesus’ birth (Matthew 2:1-18). They give them treasures of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, costly, valuable gifts fit for a king. Unfortunately, they had the same explanation for Herod. Warned in a dream (probably another angel), the magi did not to go back to Herod (Matthew 2:12). Another angel warned Joseph to flee to escape Herod’s wrath (Matthew 2:1-13-17). Did the valuable gifts provide for Joseph’s family while they were in Egypt awaiting Herod’s death (Isaiah 60:6-7)? How did Joseph find out about Herod’s death? Another angel came to help Joseph know when it was time to return home (Matthew 2:19-23). God took care of everything, except for maybe that hotel room in Bethlehem.
Angels. Created beings. Heavenly servants. Warriors for God (I think of the Elven army in The Lord of the Rings!). Messengers for Almighty Yahweh. These events are not the only ones where angels show up to tell, protect, encourage God’s people. Each time they confront people as messengers, they have the same words: do not be afraid! I don’t know because it’s never happened to me, but the sight of a heavenly being in my bedroom would certainly feel like a good time to be afraid.
Not too many people report a glorious, winged creature appearing to them these days. BUT people do report incidents when they were saved from disaster by someone who just disappears when the police, EMT, or firetruck arrives. Or they merge into traffic and barely miss being run over by a semi. People then talk about guardian angels. I’m skeptical that God has assigned an angel to take care of each of us. It’s a Wonderful Life probably perpetuated that notion.
What I do know is that the Holy Spirit resides inside me. He helps me make decisions and sometimes gives me a glimpse of how He connects us all. After all, He’s not the Spirit cut into pieces, doled out in chunks at our salvation! The Holy Spirit is spirit. He recognizes Himself when I meet other Christians. He prompts me to pray when I don’t even know why, but find out that He had awakened me to pray at a critical moment in another Christian’s life. He guides me to change my plans to help someone else.
Christians are charged to be messengers and on-the-spot ministers to the world. We should take the baby Jesus to the world and share with others the gift He gave to us on the cross.
Perhaps that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.