At the heart of the Christian faith is the life of Jesus Christ. This story of Jesus’ life on earth does not begin in a manger in Bethlehem. Rather, it begins in Nazareth, another village 70 miles north of Bethlehem, the home town of Mary and Joseph. And the story begins not with a birth, but with the announcement of a pregnancy. And the first character to appear in the story is not Jesus, or Mary or Joseph, or any shepherds or wise men; but rather, the first character to appear is an angel. Here is how it all began as told in Luke 1:26-28: “In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’”
Not only are angels the first to appear and the first to speak, angels make more appearances in the nativity story than anyone else. The angels also have, by far, the most speaking parts. Our favorite Christmas carols reflect their ongoing presence, hymns such as “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “Angels from the Realms of Glory,” and “Angels We Have Heard on High.” In almost every nativity scene there is at least one angel.
Think about all parts angels play in the story. In Luke 1, at the very beginning of the story, it is an angel that announces to Mary the fact of her miraculous conception, and the wonder of who that child is that is growing in her womb. It was an angel that appeared to the heart-broken and confused Joseph, explaining to him how it was God who was working in this strange and embarrassing and wondrous situation. It was then a whole multitude of angels that announced the birth to the shepherds, filling the night sky with their songs of praise. And it was an angel who warned Joseph of Herod’s wicked plan to kill all the baby boys in Bethlehem, and told him to flee to Egypt.
Who are these angels that are in every scene of the story of Jesus birth, and also fill the pages of the rest of the Bible? Even though angels make over 300 appearances in the Bible, I have never taken much notice of them or had any desire to look into what they are all about. Why should we be interested in angels? Look at what angels do in the Bible. They appear to give guidance, protection, comfort, and help, and that’s all just wonderful. Of course, we all need all of that. But the Bible also tells us that we can get all of that directly from God himself and his Word. The Psalmist says God is our protector and strength. Isaiah says God will carry us and sustain us. In Matthew 28 Jesus himself says he will be with us to the very end of the age, and in Matthew 11 Jesus says he will help us bear our burdens. And Timothy says that God’s Word, the Bible is our guide. So who needs angels? They are all probably very nice, but unless one appears to me, I will continue focusing on the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (continued…)
Luke 2:8-10 — And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.”
Matthew 4:10-11 — Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
Psalm 148:2 — Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
MARTIN LUTHER’S ORDER FOR MORNING PRAYER –from the Small Catechism
In the morning, when you rise, make the sign of the cross and say,
“In the name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
Then, kneeling or standing, say the Apostle’s Creed and the Lord’s Prayer.
Then, you may say this prayer:
“I give Thee thanks, heavenly Father, through thy dear Son Jesus
Christ, that Thou hast protected me through the night from all harm and
danger. I beseech Thee to keep me this day, too, from all sin and evil, that
in all my thoughts, words, and deeds I may please Thee. Into thy hands I
commend my body and soul and all that is mine. Let thy holy angel have
charge of me, that the wicked one may have no power over me. Amen.”
After singing a hymn or whatever your devotion may suggest, you
should go to your work joyfully.