Read: Luke 2:9-15, Mark 1:13, Matthew 26:52-53, Luke 22:42, Ephesians 3:10, 1 Peter 1:10-12, Revelation 22:16
If there is one group that dominates the drama of Christ’s birth, it is that of the angels. What would the Christmas story be without Gabriel and friends stunning Zachariah in the Temple or announcing the call to Mary or showing up in Joseph’s dreams to explain the situation, or proclaiming the Messiah’s birth to the shepherds and enveloping them in glorious song? For that matter, what would Christmas be without a rousing chorus of Hark the Herald Angels sing?
Of course angelic participation in Jesus’ life extends far beyond the holy family’s humble beginnings. Whether warning Joseph of impending danger, or telling him it was time to move back home, or ministering to the grown up Jesus during His 40-day wrestling match with Satan, or strengthening Him in the garden of Gethsemane, angels were always showing up. You almost get the sense that the hosts of heaven hung around the Son of God all the time, just waiting for a chance to do something, hoping to be of service to Him in some way.
As it turns out, that is exactly what they were doing. When Peter sliced off a temple guard’s ear as they arrested Jesus, He informed the disciples that he could call twelve legions – one for each of them – which meant that over ten thousand angels hovered at His beck and call in the unseen realm. Peter later wrote to the new believers that God’s plan to save the world was something angels yearned to understand. The word he used implied an insatiable curiosity and depicted them stooping down and examining all the parts, hoping somehow to finally grasp the big picture. Angels, it seems, were privy only to the snippets of the story that God chose to bring them into.
Can you imagine Gabriel heading back to heaven with the details he’d discovered about the Almighty planning to enter a woman’s womb? Can you hear that heavenly chorus jabbering all at once, trying to figure out what the song they were given to sing over a band of peasants on a hillside could mean? How would the morning stars who once sang for joy over creation have described that troubling scene where He who spoke the world into existence now lay in a heap with blood oozing from His pores? Could the story of their Master sacrificing His life to save those who scorned His glory and rejected His love ever make sense to the angels who existed to do Christ’s bidding?
At first glance, the answer would seem to be no, that the angels will never have the blessing of understanding redemption’s story. After all, the Gospel is a mystery that even those of us who are made in God’s image must grapple with, gaining understanding only when He opens the eyes of our hearts by His grace. But Paul wrote of a profound reality, one that boggles the mind, which is that those who’ve been purchased with the blood of Christ actually have the privilege of making this mystery known to the rulers and authorities in heavenly places. How in the world is that supposed to happen?
Paul doesn’t go on to explain, but it seems to me that it must be through the way our lives are transformed once the Spirit of God comes to live within us. Isn’t it true that the Gospel story is being retold every time we choose to take up our cross and die to our flesh so that the Light of Christ shines more brightly through us? This is amazing, when you think about it. With each work God does in your heart and mine to make us more like Him, heavenly hosts are stooping down to eagerly watch, insatiably curious to see why He sent His Son to earth on that first Christmas 2000 years ago.
So as we rejoice in our own salvation this Christmas, let us take delight that not only has God redeemed us, but He’s enabled us to see the beauty of His plan formed before the foundation of the world. And as we go about our holiday busyness, let us remember that we are being looked upon with wonder, that our lives are on display before myriads of angels who long to understand the glorious mystery of the Gospel. May we pray that as they watch us this day, their wish will indeed be granted.
Consider that your life is the story of redemption, that the transforming power of Christ within you is one of the ways God makes His manifold wisdom known to the angels. Ponder this reality for a few minutes. Reflect on the truth that as a participant in the Gospel, you have privileges that the angels who live in God’s very presence yearn to get a glimpse of. What might these be?
The glory of God refers to all that He is – His character, attributes and ways. What would you want your life to say to the angels about God’s glory, which perhaps they don’t know on their own? (Remember that they have no personal experience of salvation). Make a list of these things and give God thanks, worshipping Him for the wonder of being human, and being His children.
A Christmas Activity
Look around for angel decorations – on the tree, on wreaths, in stores etc. Each time you see one; ponder the amazing truth that God has chosen you to display His glories to the angels who fill the unseen realm.