Angels. This time of year, angels are everywhere.
Their gilded images adorn the front of Christmas cards. The outline of what we have to come to envision angels to look like – beautiful humans with wings always surrounded by glowing light, complete with halos, harps, and flowing white gowns – decorate our rooftops, our stockings hung by the fireplace, and the ornaments on our Christmas trees. Nearly all of the classic, beloved Christmas carols make some reference to angels. In their lilting refrains, two of them in particular, “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” specifically focus on these heavenly creatures.
Angels abound during this holiday season because they pop up all over the Christmas story. It was an angel who conveyed the news to an aging priest named Zacharias that he and his wife, Elizabeth would bear a son named John, the forerunner of the coming Messiah. It was an angel who surprised a young, engaged but unmarried girl named Mary with the news of her pregnancy and the explanation of exactly who that child would be. It was an angel who reassured and redirected Joseph in his disappointment with his spouse as he planned to divorce Mary quietly. It was an angel who proclaimed the glad tidings to shepherds who were watching their flocks by night on a hillside outside of Bethlehem, that unto all a Savior had been born.
It’s hard to imagine Christmas without these divine messengers who repeatedly herald this “good news of great joy for all the people” – the birth of Jesus Christ. It also can be tempting to give too much attention to the reality of angels among us. Angelology, the study of angels both good and evil (demons), fascinates and confuses many Christians today. Some believers can become obsessed with the names and activities of angels to the point of spiritual paranoia.
As we’ll learn this Sunday, as we continue our Advent study of the first three chapters of the letter to the Hebrews, this was a very real temptation in the early Church. Back then, there was a great deal of emphasis put on angels, particularly in their perceived role as intermediaries between the Lord and His people. In fact, some Christians were starting to believe this is how we ought to best understand who Jesus is. Still today, some groups, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, view Christ as being nothing more than an angel of the Lord.
But as we will hear this Sunday, the writer of this letter wants to make it perfectly clear, Jesus was no angel. Over the centuries, angels have inspired all sorts of imaginative stories and depictions, but what’s left when we separate fact from fiction? You’re invited to join us this Sunday as we briefly review exactly what the Bible does say about angels. More importantly, we will discover together why Jesus is superior to angels and how, rather than worshipping angels, we can learn from these heavenly creatures about being messengers of the Gospel and always pointing to Christ.