Summary: When we think of the Christmas story, we often think of Christ, of Mary and Joseph, of the shepherds and the wise men. But this message is dedicated to the most overlooked character(s) of the Nativity (Angels) and to their message!
When we think of the Christmas story, we often think of Christ, of Mary and Joseph, of the shepherds and the wise men. But this post is dedicated to the most overlooked character(s) of the Nativity: Gabriel and the angels. Angels appeared at least six times in the few months surrounding the birth of our Savior — proving Heaven’s interest in such a significant event.
Angels are messengers. The word ‘angel’ literally means ‘one who is sent.’ These messengers of God deliver God’s Word and His will throughout the realms visible and invisible. Sometimes their message is one of worship (Seraphim) as mentioned in Isaiah 6. Sometimes their message is one of ministry and encouragement (Matt. 4:11; Heb. 1:14). Sometimes their message is one of protection (Matt. 2:13). And sometimes their message demands warfare (invisible: Dan. 10:13 and visible: Joshua 5:13-15). But always, their message is God’s; in fact, according to Matthew 18:10, angels are constantly focused on the countenance of God even as they deliver their messages and complete their mission. Let’s take a few moments to consider the special appearances of these divine messengers as mentioned in the Christmas narratives of Luke 1 & Matthew 1…
#1 A Message of God’s Choice Revealed
First, Luke records the announcement by Gabriel to Mary of God’s choice of His earthly family (1: 26-38). She is stunned and amazed. He reassures her that this is exactly what God wants – that she is exactly who God wants. She has found favor with God. Because of the grace of God and because of her desire to be devoted to her family and her faith, God favored her. She questions not the plan of God, but the impossibility of bearing a child as a virgin. He explains it so matter of fact as if it is ‘standard procedure’ (the Holy Spirit will come and cover you and then you will be with child … simple!), then He prophesies about who this baby is and what His birth means for the world and closes with ‘For with God nothing shall be impossible.’ Her response was one of great faith: ‘be it unto me according to thy word.’ This was just the beginning of difficult changes for Mary (accused of fornication, a shame to her family, physical changes, etc.), yet she accepted the will of God for her life and trusted Him with all the details. I love that! I wish that we would all respond to God’s impossible callings like that.
Secondly, the angel appears to Joseph. Mary had told Joseph the news and we find him (Matthew 1:18-25) debating on whether or not to shame her and to stop the marriage process. The message is simple: ‘This is God’s doing! Marry the girl and name the baby Jesus.’ At this point in the story, Matthew inserts an ancient prophecy of Isaiah which gives the reader a little perspective to the enormity of this moment. We need also reminded of what happened six months prior when an angel (possibly the same one?) visited Zacharias and with news of a baby (John the Baptist). When Zacharias doubted, he was stricken with silence until the baby was born. Both these situations of John and Joseph with the angel show a very interesting balance between the sovereignty of God and the free will of man.