Hark! the herald angels sing, Glory to the new-born King: peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled! Joyful, all ye nations, rise, join the triumph of the skies; with th’angelic host proclaim, Christ is born in Bethlehem!
It’s that time of year again for angels to take center stage! We see them (or what some mistakenly think they look like!) on Christmas cards, as decorations on trees and in homes, and filling shelves in stores that would otherwise deny the existence of God and His mighty host. The Scriptures, of course, speak of these mighty spiritual beings who appear at some of the most important and significant times in redemptive history. One of those times is at the announcement of the birth of Christ as we find it recorded for us in the Gospels. The incarnation is the pivotal moment in human history, marking the beginning of the humiliation of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is what the Apostle Paul refers to as the “fullness of time” in Galatians 4:4. In the hymns we sing this time of year, angels appear often in the lyrics as they herald this great mystery—God taking on human flesh and dwelling among us. Charles Wesley penned the words above to one of our most beloved hymns, as well as these theologically rich words in the second stanza: “Christ, by highest heav’n adored, Christ, the everlasting Lord! Late in time behold him come, offspring of the Virgin’s womb. Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail th’incarnate Deity, pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.” In keeping with the theme of heralding angels, we will be doing a brief three-part series examining the three main appearances recorded for us in the Gospels: Gabriel visits Mary (Luke 1:26-38); an angel of the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream (Matthew 1:18-25); and, the multitude of the heavenly host appear to lowly shepherds (Luke 2:8-20). Trust me, though, they will not hold center stage—Jesus alone holds that place, now and always!
Since His taking on our human nature was for the purpose of being “made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17), it is fitting for us to consider these things as we prepare to come to the Lord’s Table this week. Once again, marvel at our Savior’s incarnation in order that He might suffer and die under the curse and wrath of His Father for your sins and mine. There are two people mentioned in the incarnation narrative who did not have angels herald His coming. Simeon and Anna were both filled with the Spirit and full of faith. They waited long for His appearing—the “Consolation of Israel” and “redemption in Jerusalem.” The Lord was gracious to allow them both to see the Savior and to depart in peace—true Shalom! Let us come with true faith to the Table of grace, confessing our sins, even as we long for and await His glorious appearing from heaven.
In the Name of Jesus, Who came in the fullness of time,
Pastor Ted Trefsgar