|Sunday December 16, 2012
|| Phone: 570.829.5216
|Pastor David Miklas
|Message: Christmas 2012
Have We Learned the Angel's Message?
Introduction: No one should love Christmas more than Christians. I Love Christmas – every part! And I hope you do as well. But I mostly love the Reason for the Season – God’s indescribable gift to us of His Son. Now, for years I have said, “I believe the holiest of all nights is Christmas Eve, and therefore we are here to HONOR and WORSHIP Jesus the Christ of Christmas.”
Perhaps in most of your homes there is a Nativity set up.
At the very center, of course, are Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus in his manger.
The animals share their gentle presence.
Entering the stable worshipfully are the shepherds.
Sorry, but the Wise men should not be a part of the scene. They visited much later.
But, what about the angels? We probably agree that they add beauty and grace to the Nativity, but we're never certain where to place them. Shouldn’t they be in the "sky" above our Nativity set? Unfortunately, most of us tend to place the angels on the periphery of the scene, almost at a distance. In truth, the angels should not be an afterthought. As the Bible demonstrates, they occupy the very center of this spectacular story.
Let’s investigate their role in this great event, and discover the nature of these mysterious heavenly agents. After all, what would Christmas be without angels?
But angels aren't limited to Christmas. When God created the cosmos, He made all kinds of living things. He made plants and animals. He made humans and angels. Though we can't normally see them, these spirit-beings, unseen by mortal eyes, have been sent by God:
To minister to us, His children, as we read in Hebrews 1:13-14, "But to which of the angels … are they not ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation."
To provide protection as guardian angels as we read in Psalms 34:7, "The angel of the Lord encamped round about them that fear him, and delivereth them."
To provide the ministry of guarding children, Matthew 18:10 tells "Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones, for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven."
To observe the Salvation of man, as we read in I Peter 1:12, "… the gospel… sent down from heaven, which things the angels desire to look into." Then, after one has put their faith in Christ, the angels rejoice as we read in Luke 15:7, "Likewise, I say unto you there is JOY in the presence of the Angels of God over one sinner that repenteth."
To carry us home to heaven when our journey ends in death, In Luke 16:22 we read, "And it came to pass that the beggar (this was Lazarus) died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom…"
Angels are mentioned in 34 books of the Bible for a sum total 273 times. Interestingly, the original Hebrew and Greek use only one word each to designate these creatures.
The Hebrew word for angel, occurring some 108 times in the Old Testament, is "MALAK" and means simply a "sent one" or a messenger.
The Greek word for angel, used 165 times in the New Testament, is "AGGELOS" and again it indicated a messenger.
You may visualize angels in white robes with wide, feathery wings. Perhaps you even picture shiny gold halos. This image comes not from the Bible but from painters of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. These artists were disappointed to discover that the Bible is largely silent about the physical appearance of angels. In order to describe the indescribable the artists had to substitute their own creativity.
We can know this about the appearance of angels. If we saw one, we would most likely be terrified. As we find in the New Testament, the first words from an angel's mouth are usually, "Don't be afraid!" People weren't used to seeing them, but as the birth of Christ approached, angelic activity picked up considerably in the land of Judea.
Not every biblical hero saw one of these heavenly visitants, but angels showed up when needed.
They comforted Hagar in the desert and delivered Lot from Sodom.
They guided Israel through the wilderness and fed Elijah under the juniper tree.
They surrounded Elisha with chariots of fire and saved Hezekiah from Assyria's onslaught.
They led Isaiah to commitment and directed Ezekiel into ministry.
They surrounded Jesus through every phase of His work and bore Lazarus to heaven.
They delivered Peter from prison and comforted Paul in a squall.
They even gave John a tour of the New Jerusalem.
But the greatest concentration of angelic activity found in the Bible undoubtedly surrounds the life of Christ – His birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and return. Whether seen or invisible, angels hovered around the Son of Man at His every step. Consider these recipients of angelic visits:
An Angel visited Zechariah in Luke 1, who would be the father of John the Baptist. When Zechariah doubted, the angel struck him speechless until his son was born.
Gabriel, an Angel, visited Mary in Luke 1 telling her that the Son of God would be born to her.
An Angel visited Joseph in Matthew 1 reassuring him to support Mary and take her as his wife.
An Angel appeared to the shepherds in Luke 2 urging them to hurry to Bethlehem and worship the King.
And don't forget the wise men in Matthew 2! Where was their angel? We are told that they were "warned in a dream" that Herod, the king, was treacherous and should be avoided. Perhaps it was an angel who spoke in that dream, as in the dream of Joseph.
Angels ministered to Jesus on Temptation Mountain. He spoke of them frequently in His teachings.
Angels comforted Jesus in the Garden and were ready to deliver Him from the cross, had He called.
Angels proclaimed Jesus’ resurrection; explained His ascension; worshipped with joy at His re-enthronement and are preparing to accompany Him when He comes again.
Who can explain the appearances of the angels? They come in dreams and in real time; they appear in a fearsome display, or they come disguised as ordinary people. Hebrews 13:2 tells us that in showing hospitality, many have "entertained angels without realizing it"!
So it was with awe and wonder that the multitudes of heaven assembled one night over a little scruffy patch of pasture on the outskirts of Bethlehem. In Luke 2:10-14 we read,
“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. (11) For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. (12) And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. (13) And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, (14) Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Then there were the shepherds as we continue reading Luke 2:15-20,
“And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. (16) And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. (17) And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. (18) And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. (19) But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. (20) And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.”
When this blessed event occurred on that night in Bethlehem, who received the heavenly invitation to greet the newborn king?
Was it the world's emperors?
Was it the priests and prophets?
Was it the soldiers and scholars?
No, that was an honor reserved for the lowliest of the low, the least educated of men, ranch hands who were despised by the local society:
Men whose skin glistened with sweat,
Whose clothes gave off the stench of the fields,
Those who lacked the most basic manners, and
Who used language unfit for your children's ears.
They were minimum-wage earners who were unlikely to be admitted to any respectable establishment of the time, but on this night they were favored by heaven.
They bore names nowhere recorded in the Bible. Yet whatever their names may have been, they graced the guest list for the most joyful moment human history had yet contained.
How touching that society's least appreciated workers would have their own angelic experience. What does this tell us about God?
He sent angels for very practical reasons to Mary and Joseph. But with the shepherds, we can only conclude that God wanted humble peasants to attend the birth, even though they would play no other part in the life of Jesus.
As if to set the tone for the entire life and message of his Son, God brought a delegation of shepherds to be the first to see, to worship, and to celebrate.
He invited simple men to take the low road and wise men to take the high road. Because from that moment, all roads would lead to the manger and the Child.
Imagine the wonder of that evening for those humble field hands. One moment the skies were dark, and their moods were perhaps darker. The next moment angels were in their presence with amazing news. The Hymn “The First Noel” expresses it well.
The First Noel, the angels did say,
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay;
In fields where they lay keeping their sheep,
On a cold winter’s night that was so deep.
Surely the shepherds, who were afraid, shared our questions: "Why here? Why us?"
But these simple men followed the simple instructions the angels had given them.
They made their way to Bethlehem and took part in an experience that countless generations of Christians have envied.
As they left, they told everyone in their path of the things that had happened to them.
Their lives would never again be the same; the sky would never seem so dark.
They would know that just as they kept watch over their sheep by night, someone far greater was keeping watch over them.
It is worth noting that the shepherds enjoyed the most elaborate of the angelic visits.
First: there was the usual single angel – the message bearer. He soothed the shepherds' fear, invited them to Bethlehem, and gave specific instructions on how to find the family of Jesus.
Second: in verses 13-14 we read, "And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, (14) Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
This was a sky show such as the world has never seen. No holiday fireworks could possibly measure up to this spectacle. And nothing could have been more unexpected.
This was a spontaneous outpouring of joy! This was a moment of heartfelt worship that began in heaven and broke through into our world. In this moment, when lowly shepherds were invited to the presence of God's Son, what other response could there be but joy and praise among the servants of God?
The Hymn writer expressed it in “Angels we have Heard on High”
Angels we have heard on High,
Sweetly singing o’er the plaines
And the mountains in reply,
Echo back their joyous strains.
Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why your joyous strains prolong?
Say, what may the tidings be
Which inspire your heavenly song?
Come to Bethlehem, and see
Him, whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee,
Christ the Lord, the new born King.
See within a manger laid
Jesus, Lord of Heaven and earth!
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,
With us sing our Savior’s birth.
When it was over, we are told that the angels "returned to heaven." Thankfully not for good, since they would come again, many times.
Surely there are angels at work even this moment – perhaps in your life. We may not see them, but we can surely follow their lead. How? By staying busy with the work of heaven; by telling people that God is moving; and every now and then, by exploding in the simple joy of seeing the miracle that is Christ alive in our world.
Angels are certainly glorious messengers (as we said in the beginning of this message literally the word “angel” means “messenger”),but they aren’t the only messengers God uses. The“angels”mission is the same as our Christmas mission – to announce the Savior’s birth.
Do you realize we must preach to those around us to save them from perishing? Have we learned the angel’s message? Are we passing on the celestial echoes of the Gospel Call?
Notice again the words found in Luke 2:17-18 “And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. (18) And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
What was the saying “they made known abroad concerning this Child?”
What was it that made people wonder at the things told them?
It was the message of the Angel “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”
So this season, let’s take a page from the game plan of the angels.
First: Find a way of telling someone there:“…is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”As you do, the world will hear celestial echoes of a message from long ago of a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.
Second: Find a way of singing the first stanza of the hymn“Angels, from the Realm of Glory.”
Angels, from the Realm of Gory,
Wing your flight over all the earth;
Ye who sang creation’s story,
Now proclaim Messiah’s birth:
Come and worship, come and worship;
Worship Christ, the new born King.
Third: Why believe the angels message? In 2 Corinthians 6:2 we read, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation.” Put yourself in the nativity. The story of Jesus isn’t just about Mary, Joseph, the angels or the shepherds. It concerns us, just as if we had stood there, knelt by the manger, and marveled at the newborn child.
We worship at His manger because He knew us in our sins and yet He loved us enough to set aside His deity to become a man and offer us a life that makes sense.
We believe in Him because through His atoning sacrificial death, He can forgive us of every sin – past, present, and future, and impart eternal life.
He lived a perfect life, then offered Himself as our substitute on the Cross.
He paid the price for every sin, and those who trust and follow Him become heirs of heaven.
This Christmas is perhaps the best time in the world to trust Him as your Savior. Now is the time of salvation. Stand by His manger, gaze at His cross, and open the door of your heart to Him. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
If God has spoken to your heart, after reading the sermon “Have You Learned the Angel’s Message?” right now talk to God about what He has spoken to you.
Do you have the assurance that one day you will go to heaven? If you have no assurance that you know Jesus Christ, then I trust you will decide to accept Him as your personal Savior. The Bible tells us in
Acts 16:31, “…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…”
Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
This prayer is here for those who need to ask Jesus to be their personal Savior: “I do want to go to Heaven. I know I am a sinner, and I do believe Jesus Christ died for me. I realize I cannot buy this great salvation, nor can I earn it. Knowing Jesus died on the cross and arose from the grave to pay my sin debt and to purchase my salvation, I do now trust Him as my Savior, and from this moment on I am completely depending on Him for my salvation.”
If you made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, please let me know. Please send an e-mail to, pdmikBBM@aol.com and I will send you some literature that will help you in your Christian life.
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In His Amazing Grace,
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