Summary: Who are angels and what is their role. Three times an agel of the Lord appeared and significantly altered the life of Joseph and Mary.
The Christmas Story
Dr. Billy Graham relates a story in his book "God's Secret Agents" about missionary John Paton and his wife in The New Hebrides.
It is said that one night they were surrounded by hostile natives who wanted to kill them.
They prayed through the night for protection and at daylight, saw that the attackers were leaving.
A year later, the chief of the tribe of the attackers became a Christian and Paton asked him about the night of the attack and why nothing had happened.
The chief was surprised and said it was because of all the men who were there protecting them, hundreds of them in shining garments and with drawn swords.
In Matthew 18:10 Jesus speaks of guardian angels when he says,
“See that you never despise any of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in heaven are continually in the presence of my Father in heaven.”
Jesus certainly believed in Angels as he mentioned them a lot in his teaching.
See Luke 20:36, Mt 22:30, Lk 15:10 to name a few and of course our Gospel reading
I wonder what image the word angel conjures up for you?
Do you think of:
1. Some make believe figure in the same league as Father Christmas – a figure hung up on a tree at Christmas to make it pretty.
2. Or do you think of the angels who announced Jesus’ birth to the Shepherds, or
3. Or if you know your Bible more deeply you might think on the angel sent by God to warn Joseph to flee with the Holy Family to Egypt.
Did you know that angels are mentioned over 300 times in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation
So what or who are angels?
Angels are essentially “ministering spirits,” (Hebrews 1:14) and do not have physical bodies like humans.
The Bible does, however, make it clear that angels can only be in one place at a time.
They must have some localized presence.
On the one hand angels can take on the appearance of men when the occasion demands.
On the other hand, their appearance is sometimes in dazzling white and blazing glory (Matthew 28:2-4).
Angels in the Scriptures are totally different from what popular culture tells us
They are God’s messengers.They are powerful figures.
We read in Acts 12:21
On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, "This is the voice of a god, not of a man." Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.
You don’t mess with Angels.
And Angels are as active today in the world as they were in Jesus day
The only thing is that we don’t recognize them
I would like to talk this morning about one of the unsung heroes of the Nativity story Joseph, Mary’s husband.
He is described in Mt 1 as a “righteous man” (Mt 1:19)
And in this morning’s reading he met an angel whose advice quite literally changed his life.
We don’t know a lot about Joseph from Scripture.
Of his background all we know was that Joseph came from the town of Bethlehem.
He was a descendent of David, which was significant because, in Jewish law, this would make Jesus legally a descendent of David too.
We know Joseph was a carpenter because Jesus was referred to as “the carpenter’s son” (Mt 13:55) .
And he probably taught Jesus his trade.
Because fathers - in those days - used to pass on the skill of their trade to their sons.
And of course we know Jesus was a carpenter too
Story: When Maddy and I were in Israel, our guide told us that archeologists had uncovered the ruins of Saphoris (modern Tzippori in Israel), a thriving city near Nazareth.
And it is believed that Joseph spent much time there working as a carpenter probably with his son, Jesus.
The one thing special we know about Joseph was that he had three dreams recorded in Scripture in which God spoke very specifically to him.
1. In the first, an angel came to Joseph and told him that Mary, despite being pregnant had not been unfaithful.
And it was all right to marry her (Mt 1.20-21)
2. In the second dream, God warned Joseph to take Mary and the child Jesus and flee to Egypt from King Herod (Mt 2:13) and
3. In the final dream, an angel came to Joseph to tell him it was now safe to return to Israel, following the death of Herod (Mt 2:19-20)
Besides Joseph and Daniel in the Old Testament, I know of no one else having so many dreams recorded in Scripture.