As Christmas quickly approaches, we often hear familiar stories of angels who heralded the birth of the long awaited Messiah. Who are these angels, and why does God use them?
The word “angel” means “messenger.” One of the most well known messengers in the Bible was Gabriel, whose name means “God’s Strength.” He was an archangel, one of the highest classes of angels listed in the Bible. He was also the same messenger who was sent to the Prophet Daniel. One day God sent him with a message to a young woman, named Mary:
“Now in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, ‘Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” (Luke 1:26-28 NKJV).
Mary was not accustomed to being visited by heavenly beings. She was greatly troubled by the sight of this angel!
“Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end’ ” (Luke 1:30-33 NKJV).
Can you imagine hearing a message like that? What an amazing thing for a very young woman to hear! Many had talked of the coming Messiah, and here she had been chosen to be His mother. Watch how Mary was a true woman of faith, in spite of the enormity of this message:
“Then Mary said, ‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her” (Luke 1:38 NKJV).
Now the Lord wasn’t finished. He had another message to deliver, and this time He sent His messenger to a man named Joseph:
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: after his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she shall bring forth a Son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’ ” (Matthew 1:18-21 NKJV).
The angel gave the same message to Joseph as Mary, “You shall call His name Jesus.” The name Jesus means “Jehovah Saves.” Notice Joseph’s reaction to the angel. He didn’t act terrified at all. It seems clear that Joseph was a man given to dreams. In fact, we have a record of four times that God spoke to Joseph in a dream – three times through an angel! God prepared Joseph for this very purpose: to raise the Messiah as his own child.
Caesar Augustus issued a decree that all should register for a census in the town of their birth. Joseph took Mary, his betrothed wife, to the town of Bethlehem:
“So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her first-born Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:6-7 NKJV).
God sent a heavenly messenger to Mary, and then another to Joseph. At this point He was ready to send a whole host of angels. A group of lowly shepherds were quietly resting under the night sky with their sheep:
“And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths lying in a manger.’ ” (Luke 2:10-12 NKJV).
Can you imagine this glorious circle of brilliant light that suddenly appeared to these shepherds? Out of this dazzling light a heavenly messenger stepped forward with the good news – Messiah the Lord was born!
This is the humility of God. He did not reveal His Son to great political or religious leaders, such as kings and priests. He revealed His Son to lowly shepherds, because His Son was going to be a shepherd, who would give His life for His sheep.
“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!’ ” (Luke 2:13-14 NKJV).
At first, only one angel appeared, but he was not alone. Suddenly a huge multitude of thousands of angels also appeared to the startled men, and burst out in praise and adoration for the newborn King.
“So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us’ ” (Luke 2:15 NKJV).
Can you imagine it? An excited group of shepherds burst into a small shelter, exclaimed that an angel, along with a great heavenly host, had declared to them that the Messiah had been born, and that they would find Him in a little manger. What a startling scene that must have been for Mary and Joseph in the middle of the night!
Who are these angels? They are God’s heavenly messengers. Why does God use these angels? From the Book of Genesis to the Book of Revelation, we see that God does not do anything without the ministry of His angels. He sends them as His messengers, and they are His holy ministers to perform everything He desires to accomplish. The Psalmist wrote:
“Bless the Lord, you His angels, who excel in strength, who do His word, heeding the voice of His word. Bless the Lord all you His hosts, you ministers of His, who do His pleasure” (Psalm 103:20-21 NKJV).
From the very beginning, God’s heavenly messengers were actively involved in the birth of the One who was to become the Messiah and the Savior of the world. They did this so that He might become your Lord and Savior!
You are holy, dear saint!
May you enjoy the Christ of Christmas with your family and loved ones this season.
[All Scripture quotations have been taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, Copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson Inc.]