Christmas is a rather magical time of year. The lights and festive décor truly add to the holiday spirit. Angels grace Christmas trees and stars are liberally scattered throughout. However, these traditional elements of our celebrations point to an even more magical time. A time in history when the chasm between heaven and earth became smaller and angels commonly appeared to men.
Angels are such a common element in the Christmas story that we often lose sight of how remarkable these unlikely visitors are. In the Gospel of Luke, they appear three times, once to Zachariah, Mary, and then the shepherds of Bethlehem. Meanwhile, in Matthew’s Gospel, an angel is specifically sent to Joseph three times! With so many angelic appearances, they start to feel rather normal and common place. However, the appearance of angels in the Bible is hardly common place!
While divine messengers did appear to men in the Old Testament, it was few and far in between. And every time an angel did appear, it struck terror in the hearts of all who saw it. Therefore, the appearance of these divine messengers was far from common place. Jump forward to the New Testament and we read five different angelic visitations within the span of a year. That’s a lot of angelic activity! However, after the final account of an angel visiting Joseph at the end of Matthew 2, there are very few mentions of angels appearing to men.
So with this perspective, we should not lose sight of how special the angelic activity in the Christmas story is. Angelic visitation was not common place, but rather, angels were very unlikely visitors. However, as God prepared to descend to earth and become like us, angels were sent to herald the news and carry God’s special instructions to the men and women who needed them.
Angels are always carrying out the will and commands of God. We just don’t get to see their activity. However, during that first Christmas, humanity got a glimpse into the typically unseen spiritual realm as heaven touched earth through the arrival of Jesus. So the next time you see an angel gracing a tree or hovering over the manger scene, remember that these heavenly beings were sent to herald the good news of the Savior’s birth to a sleeping world. Far from being normal, these divine messengers were one of the few extraordinary elements surrounding Jesus’s humble birth. Therefore, as we continue to bask in the awe and wonder of Christmas, may we remember the unlikely visitors and never forget their special part in the Christmas story as heaven touched earth.
“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 among those with whom he is pleased!’”
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