Summary: The song of the angels shows that God’s glory and God’s grace are to be grasped and to be given
As we’ve already seen the past two weeks and in our Scripture readings earlier this morning, angels are intimately involved in the Christmas story. In the past two weeks we’ve seen how Gabriel first revealed to Zechariah that he would have a son who would prepare the way for the Messiah. And then shortly thereafter, he comes and reveals to Mary that she is going to be the mother of that Messiah. In Matthew 1, we see that an angel also appeared to Joseph to reveal that Mary was with child and to instruct him to go ahead and take her as his wife. Finally, in this morning’s Scripture readings, we saw that an angel appeared to a group of shepherds to reveal to them that the Savior had been born in Bethlehem.
Angels are not just important to the Christmas narrative. There are over 300 references to angels in the Bible and angels appear in over half of the books of the Bible. But unfortunately it seems that many of us get our ideas about angels not from the Bible, but rather from classic movies like “It’s a Wonderful Life”.
In the movie, Angel Second Class Clarence Odbody is portrayed as a human who became an angel upon his death. That same idea is reinforced later in the movie when a bell rings on the Christmas tree and George Bailey’s daughter says, “Teacher says every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.” But these ideas are certainly not consistent with what we know about angels from the Scriptures.
So let’s set the stage for the song of the angels that we’ll look at this morning by taking a few minutes to discover some important facts about angels from the pages of Scripture. We’re going to follow up on this some more during the “Connections” Bible study time this morning, so I hope you’ll join us then.
In the Bible, angels have three main roles and we’ll see that the song that the angels proclaim in Luke 2 fulfills all three roles.
Three main roles of angels:
1. To magnify God
This is the most important role of angels. Whenever we are given a glimpse of heaven in passages like Isaiah 6 or Revelation 4, we see that the angels that surround the throne of God are praising God. And in Job 38, when God speaks to Job, He reveals that the angels, who He calls the “morning stars”, were singing God’s praise at creation:
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
(Job 38:4-7 ESV)
We’re going to return to this idea in a moment, but it is significant that this is only one of two places in the Bible where angels are found singing.
We also learn here that angels are a separate class of created beings completely apart from humans. The angels that we see in this passage existed long before Adam was created. And the Bible is clear that no human ever becomes an angel after his or her death.
2. To be messengers of God
Both the Hebrew and Greek words for “angel” literally mean “messenger.” And throughout the Scriptures we see God sending His angels to proclaim God’s message to His people.
Sometimes that involves announcing good news like the birth of His Son. But far more often the message is a message of judgment. If you don’t believe that, just read the messages the angels deliver in the book of Revelation.
So angels are certainly not the cute little babies with wings that are portrayed in our art or which are made into Christmas ornaments to put on our trees. So it’s not surprising that when angels do act as God’s messengers, the first reaction of their audience is almost always fear.
3. To minister to people
The writer of Hebrews described this role of angels:
Are they [angels] not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?
(Hebrews 1:14 ESV)
Most of the time, angels are not seen – they minister behind the scenes. But occasionally, they enter our world, often in the form of a human, for a short time, to minister for a specific purpose, as the writer of Hebrews describes:
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
(Hebrews 13:2 ESV)
When it came to the incarnation, the event was so important and so critical, that no earthly channels were adequate to communicate this amazing event to the world. So it is no wonder that there is no other event in the Bible where so many angels were an integral part of the story.