Summary: How the angelic appearances around Jesus’ birth demonstrates God’s providence

(adapted from a series from Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, KY)



OPEN: A. As human beings, we tend to associate certain images with certain concepts

1. For almost 2000 years, one of the main ways the church told the various stories of the Bible were

through icons, art, and stained glass windows.

2. With current technology, many churches now use projection screens and various forms of media

3. Never are images more apparent than at Christmas time

--You don’t even have to see or hear the word Christmas to know what time of the year it is

4. We use colored lights, Christmas trees, candles, Nativity scenes, and other visual images to tell

others that it is the Christmas season

5. This morning we’ll start looking at some of these images of Christmas

a. None of these images are to worshipped

--but they definitely point to the Christ of Christmas who should be worshipped

b. Jesus is the only person to walk on the earth who first came from heaven

1). We begin our existence as earthly beings who someday become residents of heaven

2). But Jesus is unique in that He was the King of heaven before coming to earth

3). His heavenly majesty was interrupted by a 33-year visit

--We might call it His “short term mission trip,” during which he laid aside the majesty of

heaven to be one of us

4). Each of the four images we’ll look at will point to that very thing: God becoming flesh

and living among us

6. We’re going to start this morning with the angels.

--“Angels: Images of God’s Providence”

B. How do you picture angels?

1. Most folks see them as dressed in white robes and having wide feathery wings.

--Some may even picture them with golden halos.

2. That description of angels comes not from the Bible but from human imagination.

a. It was how artists in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance painted angels in their paintings.

b. Since the Bible doesn’t tell us a whole lot about what angels look like, they had to use their

creativity and imagination.

c. We have generally adopted those ideas about what angels look like.

C. Listen to how some children have perceived angels:

1. Sarah, 7 – “I only know the names of two angels. Hark and Harold.”

2. Gregory, 5 – “Everybody’s got it all wrong. Angels don’t wear halos anymore. I forget why, but

scientists are working on it.”

3. Olive, 9 – “It’s not easy to become an angel! First, you die. Then you go to heaven, then there’s

still the flight training to go through. And then you got to agree to wear those angel clothes.”

4. Matthew, 9 – “Angels work for God and watch over kids when God has to go do something


5. Mitchell, 7 – “My guardian angel helps me with math, but he’s not much good for science.”

6. Henry, 8 – “Angels don’t eat, but they drink milk from Holy Cows!!!.”

7. Jack, 6 – “Angels talk all the way while they’re flying you up to heaven. The main subject is

where you went wrong before you got dead."

8. Daniel, 9 – “When an angel gets mad, he takes a deep breath and counts to ten. And when he

lets out his breath, somewhere there’s a tornado.”

9. Reagan, 10 –“Angels have a lot to do and they keep very busy. If you lose a tooth, an angel

comes in through your window and leaves money under your pillow. Then when it gets cold,

angels go north for the Winter."

10. Sara, 6 – “Angels live in cloud houses made by God and his son, who’s a very good carpenter.”

11. Jared , 8 – “All angels are girls because they gotta wear dresses and boys didn’t go for it.”

C. Most people who are familiar with the biblical Christmas story know about angels, but what they

may not know is that every time we see an angel in the Christmas story, he is a symbol of God’s


--The Lord uses these special messengers to convey His message to His people.

D. Before we get to these stories, we should try to better understand the angels that appear in

the Bible.

1. Matthew 22:30 says that angels are created beings that don’t procreate.

2. All the angels mentioned in the Bible are of the male gender.

3. They are spiritual beings and are usually invisible, but they can take on human forms.

4. Angels serve as messengers, and protectors, and we don’t know when we might encounter one

--Heb. 13:2 – “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have

entertained angels without knowing it.”

5. Their number is almost uncountable to human beings

--Rev. 5:11 says that they number “ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of


E. Most of the time you see angelic appearances in the Bible, they’re typically delivering some sort of

a message.

1. Angels are symbols of God’s providence so, whenever you see an angel this month, think: “God

is at work—unfolding His plan.”

2. In the Christmas story, the angels bring three distinct messages:


--Lk. 1:26-38 – “In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin

pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The

angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’ Mary was

greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her,

‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son,

and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The

Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever;

his kingdom will never end.’ ‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ The angel

answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So

the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child

in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with

God.’ ‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May it be to me as you have said.’ Then the angel left

her. “

A. When the angel appeared to Mary, he revealed information that she didn’t have.

--The angel explained something she couldn’t understand.

1. He informed her that she would become pregnant and name the child Jesus

2. He also told her that this baby would be the promised Messiah

--reference to “Throne of his father David, and will reign over the house of Jacob forever, his kingdom

will never end.”

3. Confused as to what was happening, Mary asked how it could all be possible

a. The angel clarified that all of this would happen through God’s Holy Spirit and that the baby being

born would be the Son of God

b. He even shared that Mary’s aged relative, Elizabeth – who was thought to be unable to conceive a

child, was also pregnant

--Information that no one could possibly have known

B. Some of us have had moments just like Mary where we ask, “How could this be?”

1. But God has a message for us

2. Even though everything doesn’t make sense at those times, we must remember that God is always at

work, and just like Mary, we should trust in God’s plan.


--Mt. 1:18-25 – “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be

married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.

Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he

had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him

in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what

is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name

Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said

through the prophet: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him

‘Immanuel’—which means, ‘God with us.’

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his

wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.”

A. As Joseph was about to divorce his wife quietly so she wouldn’t be publicly disgraced, an angel appears

to confirm Mary’s story and to help make sense of what God was doing.

1. What was happening was not of man but of God

2. The angel confirmed that concept in Joseph because Mary needed his help and support to deliver and

raise the Son of God

B. When we’re in the midst of adversity, it is so hard to see that God is somehow still at work, but we must

remember that God is always at work unfolding His plan.

--Rom. 8:28 says: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who

have been called according to his purpose.”


--Lk. 2:8-20 – “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at

night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they

were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will

be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a

great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in

the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’ When the angels had left them and

gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has

happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the

baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had

been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned,

glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been


A. At first the shepherds were afraid of the angels, but their fear turned into celebration.

--In the monotony of life, the shepherds hadn’t realized it, but God was working upstream, and they

were the first to hear.

1. These men were basically outcasts in Jewish society

a. Because of the responsibility involved in tending sheep, they were unable to attend the synagogue

and temple services

b. Because of where they had to tend the sheep, they were unable to follow the rigid rules of that the

Pharisees had established in washing rituals

c. Because of their jobs, they had to handle dead animal carcasses (either dead sheep or dead


d. They were considered unclean and uncouth

--Even though their jobs were extremely important to Jewish social and religious life

2. Sometimes being a shepherd was exciting but most of the time it was pretty plain living

--move the sheep here and then move them there; make sure they don’t take off on their own; make

sure you know where the good pasture and the good water are located; do it over and over and over

again; it was generally a lonesome and mundane way of existence

3. It was in the midst of this mundane existence that the angels burst out with a reason to celebrate

a. I think it’s interesting that even though the shepherds were some of the least in society that God

chose to send the most spectacular Christmas angel appearance to these men

b. First there is the lone angel who was suddenly joined by a vast host of others

1). It was a sky show never before seen and never after seen

2). No fireworks display ever outdid the sky show those shepherds saw that evening

4. A five-year-old boy had one line to say in the annual church Christmas play. Dressed as an angel

with a halo and wings, his line was , “I bring you good tidings.”

After the first rehearsal, he asked, “Mommy, what are tidings?” His mother explained that

tidings were news.

The day of the play came and the performance began. The church was full and the boy was

nervous. He couldn’t remember his line. After a long, embarrassing silence, the young boy blurted

out, “Hey, do I go news for you!”

B. Even though our lives may be pretty mundane much of the time, God specializes in taking what appears

to be mundane and turning it into something that is monumental.

1. Even when it may appear that God is silent in our lives, He is still on the throne, and He is still

working and unfolding His plan.

2. What better news could we get than that the Savior is born?

--The promised Messiah has come!

CLOSE: A. Whenever you see an angel this month, may it be a reminder that God is still at work unfolding

His plan.

1. And He wants to be just as involved in your life as He was in Mary’s life and Joseph’s life and

the shepherds.

2. God is still unfolding His plan, but right now I’m most thankful that God unfolded His plan of

redemption through the Son.

--Gal. 4:4-5 – “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born

under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.”

B. Surely there are angels at work even this moment – perhaps in your life

--We may not be able to see them but we can surely follow their lead. How?

1. By staying busy with the work of heaven

2. By telling people that God is moving

3. And – every now and then – exploding with joy at the though that the living Christ is alive and

active in our world