Summary: With all the emphasis on angels during the Christmas season, we need to sort out what the Bible says about what angels are, what angels do, and what part they play in the Christmas story.
Please hear these words from Luke 1:26-38
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed[a] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[b] 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 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 father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”[c]
35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[d] will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant[e] of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
I’m really looking forward to Christmas Eve. We are going to have a great service here. Usually our family goes to the service together, then we go out to eat together. I’m looking forward to this year in particular, because our brand new daughter in law Kayla will be with us for Christmas Eve. And when we get back home, we will watch my all time favorite Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life.
If you’ve never seen It’s a Wonderful Life, first off, what’s wrong with you? Let this be the year! I’ll give you a very quick recap. It’s a wonderful life tells the story of George Bailey, a good hearted man who comes to a point of discouragement because life hadn’t turned out the way he wanted it to. As the movie opens, it appears that two galaxies are talking with one another about George Bailey’s life. “Tonight is his crucial night,” says one, which you realize must actually be God, because He’s got a deeper voice. “The night when he seriously considers throwing away God’s greatest gift—his life. We need to send someone down there. Who’s turn is it?” The second, smaller galaxy says, “Well, it’s Clarence’s turn. But are you sure you want to send him? He hasn’t even earned his wings yet.” It turns out that Clarence is George Bailey’s guardian angel, and if he can keep George from committing suicide, he will earn his wings. So most of the rest of the movie is Clarence learning about George’s life. Then, in the last twenty minutes or so, Clarence comes to earth, and shows George what the world would have been like if George had never been born. And when George sees the impact he’s made on the world, he calls out to Clarence, repents, runs throgh Bedford Falls yelling out Merry Christmas to everyone, and then the bell rings, Clarence gets his wings, and the credits roll.
There’s so many things I love about It’s a Wondedful Life. However, its theology, specifically what it says about angels, is not one of them. But I’m afraid that “It’s a Wonderful Life” probably reflects a lot of misconceptions about angels. So part of what I want to do is separate what pop culture says about angels from what the Bible says about angels.
“It’s a Wonderful Life,” but it’s bad theology!
• We don’t become angels. Clarence talks about the clothes he was buried in, and what his favorite drink was when he was alive, and you realize that even though he’s an angel now, he was a human once. Does the Bible teach that people become angels when they die? Actually, it doesn’t. The closest the Bible comes to this is in Luke 20:36, when Jesus teaches that the sons of this age (that is, human beings) are “equal” to angels. But that doesn’t mean they become angels.
35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, 36 for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons[g] of the resurrection.