What’s up with the Angels?

dante-paradiso-canto-31One of the things that you are guaranteed to see during the Christmas season is angels. I doubt if you will see one in person, but you will see depictions of and references to angels frequently. They are commonplace in Christmas movies. I think Hallmark must make it a requirement that there be a mysterious angel in one of their Christmas movies. Of course the best known Christmas angel is probably Clarence, who was such a great help to Jimmy Stewart in “It’s A Wonderful Life”.

Those of course are pretend angels. The place you will see real angels during Christmas is in the Bible. The angel Gabriel makes several appearances. He told Zacharias that he and his wife Elizabeth (who was incapable of having children) that they would have a son. This son was to be John the Baptist who was the forerunner of Christ. Gabriel also told the virgin Mary that she was going to have a son who would be great and be called the Son of the Most High. And of course we can’t forget about the angel who announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds outside of Bethlehem.

So what’s up with the angels? Why do they have such a prominent role in the Christmas story? In 1 Peter chapter 1, the apostle is talking about the glorious salvation that God has provided for us in Christ. He speaks of the careful searches and inquiries that the prophets of old made into the promises of the Christ. And then he adds an interesting phrase. While speaking of those who had preached the gospel he adds—“things into which angels long to look”. It seems that the angels have a fascination with the coming of Christ into the world. This “longing to look” gives us the picture of angels standing on tiptoe trying to get a better of view of what is going on. Peter makes this comment and then leaves us hanging. He doesn’t tells us why the angels have this great interest. So let’s think about some reasons for this.

 First of all we need to remember that the angels are well aware of how man sinned against their Creator. They saw Adam make it clear in the Garden of Eden that he trusted Satan more than he trusted God. They saw the earth become so wicked that God destroyed the world with a flood. They saw how good God was to the people of Israel but they continued to turn their back on Him and worship idols instead of the one true God. So why would the Lord provide a Savior for these people? They clearly did not deserve it.

On top of this, the angels knew that there was a rebellion against God within their own ranks as well. A great many of the angels sided with Satan in this rebellion and were cast out of heaven. God made no provision at all for these fallen angels. They are condemned to an eternity in hell—as they justly deserve.

Another thing that would surely get the angels attention is what it would take to bring salvation to these wicked people. It meant that the Son of God—the One who created them, the One they loved, the One they served as king—would humble Himself to come to earth as a man. And not only that, He would be crucified by these sinners that He came to save.

These are all things into which the angels long to look. But I think the thing that most moved them was this: in this great work of salvation, God would be glorified. He would be glorified in His justice because the sin of these people would be punished in Christ. He would be glorified in His love because He loved people who made it very clear that they did not love Him. He would be glorified in His grace because He would be granting salvation to people who did not deserve it.

That is why on the night that the angel announced the birth of Christ to the shepherds, a multitude of the heavenly host pushed their way from the heavenly realm into the earthly and enthusiastically proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” A perfectly understandable response.

Merry Christmas!