by Victor Leslie, Lt. Colonel
Angels have been around since before the creation of the earth, but ever since the Nativity, angels have been prominent in the mystery and message of Christmas. As you read the Bible stories surrounding the birth of Jesus, you cannot miss the supernatural element of the angels’ role in his birth.
Angels pop up all over the Christmas story. An angel tells Mary she will give birth to Jesus. An angel tells Joseph to take Mary as his wife. An angel tells Joseph to name the baby Jesus. An angel appears to Zechariah announcing the impending birth of his son, John the Baptist. An angel warns Mary and Joseph to flee to Egypt. An angel tells them when it is safe to return to Israel. An angel announces the birth of Christ to the shepherds, and then the angelic choir serenades them as they run off to discover the good news of a Savior—Christ the Lord. Angels among men!
Today, angels have somehow become the objects of excessive curiosity, and they seem to be everywhere. They are admired by millions of people, not only at Christmas, but all year long and in all forms, fashions and functions. There are collectible angel figurines, angel ornaments, angel pictures and booklets, angel guardian jewelry and even sand angels.
Our desire for angels to be among us has created a flurry of TV shows like Angel and Touched by An Angel, and fantasy movies like Angels in the Outfield, Heaven Can Wait, Prophecy and City of Angels. Unfortunately, our obsession with angels has also caused us to twist, warp and reshape the truth about angels into such a confusing mishmash of tales and pageantry that little remains of what the Bible says about the role of angels.
The Bible, which actually has quite a bit to say about angels, teaches that the heavenly angels are messengers of God and regularly intervene in the affairs of men. All through the Bible, angels appear, disappear and reappear. In fact, there are numerous recorded Old Testament accounts of angelic visits, intervention and involvement in life’s daily experience. They appear to rebuke idolatry, to commission and consecrate leaders, and when Jesus Christ came to earth to die, they regularly show up on earth to assist him. They not only predict his birth (Matt 1:20), minister to him after his temptation days and in Gethsemane, but also announce his resurrection and ascension.
Let me suggest that this Christmas season, as our minds begin to think of angels and angel trees, we should consciously link the Bible image and purpose for angels to our own understanding of these ethereal beings who are truly God’s messengers. While we may be excited, enthralled and enamored by the supernatural element associated with angels, we must never let our infatuation for angels displace the love for God in our hearts and in our lives. As we reflect on our earthly love affair with angels, let us remember that on that first Christmas, their purpose and message was to declare the will of God: “Peace has come to the world through Jesus Christ.” And as we open ourselves to the continuing presence of God’s spiritual messengers, who still minister to the people of God (Hebrews 1:14), may we also begin to prepare our hearts for the next time the heavenly angels to come to be among us.
And I saw another angel flying through the sky, carrying the eternal Good News to proclaim to the people who belong to this world—to every nation, tribe, language, and people. “Fear God,” he shouted. “Give glory to him. For the time has come when he will sit as judge. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all the springs of water” (Revelation 14: 6-7 NLT).