There are many things we do not know about angels, and it seems our ignorance tends to makes us skeptical about what they do and about their actual presence, or lack of it. We know they are messengers, servants of the saved, protectors, etc., but we have trouble sometimes fitting those job descriptions into reality. At least, what we deem to be reality. Daniel and John both saw angels as messengers, but Abraham once saw two angels who looked like men (no wings) and who were on a rescue and judgment mission to Sodom.
One night two thousand years ago some angels brought word of the birth of Messiah to some socially low-class Jewish shepherds who were in their fields with their sheep. I wonder what that was like. One thing is for sure, it most definitely trumps a visit by any king or president.
The Apostle Paul said that spiritual warfare has to do with angelic spirits, both good and evil, in that dimension that is all around us, yet which is unseen. But, though the actual warfare is unseen, that does not mean we have not at times seen the combatants — perhaps most of the time not knowing who, or what we were entertaining. It seems that when such incidents occur we are unaware of what actually happened until we take time to re-live the event and think about it.
Almost 40 years ago I was involved in the search for a small girl who had become lost in a large section of thick woods crawling with cottonmouth moccasins and other creatures deadly to a 4 year old child. After being found unharmed the next day she was asked if she had been afraid. She replied that she had not been afraid because her friend had been with her all night. Imagination? Maybe. Maybe not. On the other hand I have known of similar instances where children did not survive such tragedies. But, their deaths do not necessarily prove they were not in the presence of similar friends who escorted them peacefully through the ordeal and directly into the presence of our Lord. That is what happened to Lazarus.
Edwin S. Barnes put music to the words, “Angels we have heard on high “, and of course Mendelssohn put music to Wesley’s, “Hark, the herald angels sing”. Though we do not know all about them, we can still sing about these special beings God created for our benefit. Angels. It seems we can’t live—or die—without them.
Christmas 2000 Years Ago and Now
No one can be sure of the time of year when Jesus was born. For several reasons I believe it was in the spring of the year, but that aside, the important thing is that He was born.
When Jesus came the first time the world was in a state of conflict, and Israel, His people, was under the iron boot of Rome. He was not born in a palace in Jerusalem and was not afforded even the primitive comforts of an inn. When the Creator inserted Himself into His creation that night He was surrounded by the sights, smells and sounds of a stable. Not exactly a royal entrance.
Further, the news of His birth caused problems. King Herod was troubled about it because he saw His birth as unwanted competition, and the people of Jerusalem were troubled because they were not expecting His arrival and thus did not know what to do with the news. A secret birth? No, not at all. An unexpected birth is a better term.
The religious leaders knew what the scriptures said about the King’s place of birth and linage, but they made no effort to be ready for it. Ceremonialism and liturgy had taken the place of God in their hearts, and as a result they had a somewhat ho-hum attitude about the prophesied Messiah’s arrival. Had they been looking for His coming they would have had priests on duty 24/7 in Bethlehem so that the word could go out immediately. But, that would have been a lot of trouble for something they did not really pay much attention to anyhow. As a result they missed it.
Instead of the religious leaders being invited to visit the King, some lowly shepherds in the field got a personal invitation from God delivered by angels, no less! I wonder if the High Priest had ever received an invitation to some event personally delivered by God’s own angels. I doubt it. So, the shepherds went and returned in amazement.
Later, magi from the east followed a star to the house where Joseph had moved Mary and her baby, and brought gifts to the family. Not only did they return to their homelands by another way, but they also returned, no doubt, with a different heart.
It appears that things have not changed much in 2000 years. Most people are still not prepared for His coming for His church, and most of the church itself is troubled by even the thought of such an event. Imagine such a thing…Jesus coming suddenly and taking His church out…sheesch!…where would anyone get such an idea?!
A secret rapture? No, not at all. An unexpected rapture is the better term.
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