Angels Among Us

Angels Among Us

The Birth of Jesus
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no place in the guest room.

The Shepherds and the Angels
Now in that same region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for see, I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

   “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
      and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph and the child lying in the manger.

Luke 2:1-18 (NRSVUE)

The Visit of the Magi
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, magi from the east came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star in the east and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him, and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it has been written by the prophet:

   ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
      are by no means least among the rulers of Judah,
   for from you shall come a ruler
      who is to shepherd my people Israel.’ ”

Then Herod secretly called for the magi and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out, and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen in the east, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Matthew 2:1-12 (NRSVUE)

The Word Became Flesh
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overtake it.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ ”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

John 1:1-16 (NRSVUE)

Throughout the season of Advent here in Oldtown, we have been focusing on angels. Now, though there are many stories of angels appearing to human beings in the Bible, we spent time our time this Advent sharing the stories and pondering about the angel appearances that are a part of the Christmas Story.

We read about the angel appearing to Zechariah, telling him that his wife Elizabeth, though barren and beyond childbearing years, would conceive and bear a son, and they would name him John. As the angels said: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. Even before his birth, he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. And he will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah, he will go before him, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

But the story didn’t end there! Because then the angel then appeared to a young girl named Mary, telling her that she too would conceive and bear a son, but the child born to her would be the Messiah! The angel said: “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you, … Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom, there will be no end.”

The angel then appeared to Joseph in a dream, telling him not to leave Mary but to stay with her because the baby that she was carrying was from the Holy Spirit. The angel said: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

And finally, we heard of the heavenly host of angels that appeared to the shepherds in the fields that night, sharing with them good news of great joy! They said: “Do not be afraid, for see, I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”

I find it interesting that every time the angels appear, they always start with the words, “Do not be afraid.” Now I’ve always wondered, do the angels say that because they think that humans are afraid of seeing heavenly beings? Do they simply sense the anxiety that many humans experience in their lives? Or do they say it because they know that many ordinary people, like you and me, are not used to experiencing such an utter sense of Hope or Peace or Joy or Love in our lives?

And the angels always seem to appear when someone needs a little extra Hope or Peace or Joy or Love in their lives. The angels give assurance, direction, and support, but not in a pushy way. And they usually seem to leave those who receive their message in a calmer, more settled, more confident, and more secure way. Even though they never actually fix or change the situation the person is in.

In hearing all these stories, we also thought about how we might be angels to those in the world around us, and we realized that it is a simple thing, really. It just takes sharing an encouraging word with a neighbor or a smile with a stranger, perhaps an act of kindness when someone is least expecting it, or a quick note just to say you care. An angel might listen to someone that needs a listening ear or pay for a coffee of a harried shopper behind them in the Dunkin Donuts drive-through. But I think the important thing to remember is that angels don’t need to spend money. Actually, thinking about it, none of the angels in scripture do; they simply share a message or a story, a kindness or a joy of some kind.

My friends, it is often the simple gift of the angel’s presence, even if only for a moment, that brings the light, love, and assurance of God’s grace to someone. And sharing a sense of presence is such an easy yet important gift. In the gift of song that we heard earlier tonight, we heard another angel story–a story of someone feeling lost and alone. And an angel–we don’t know if it was a heavenly one or a human one–stepped in and helped to guide the person on their way.

Folks, the truth is, every day, we are surrounded by people who are struggling in their own way, and many of us face difficulty ourselves. We all long for a little extra light and love in the world or a message of hope or peace or joy or love. So in the coming year, I would urge each and every one of you to look for ways that you can be an angel to others out in the world, to spread a little kindness and light in the dark places. Because folks, the good news is when you shine a light for someone else, you can’t help but walk in that light and love yourself!


Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *