"I Want to Be an Angel"
One of the more important roles in the Christmas story is the one played by the angels. Who among us does not recall the part of the story where the heavenly hosts proclaim the good news of our Savior’s birth? “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men,” they cry out to the Bethlehem shepherds (Luke 2:14 KJV). Moreover, you have Gabriel’s appearance to both Zechariah, father of John the Baptist, and the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:11–37), as well as an angel’s appearance to Joseph, husband of Mary, detailing God’s purpose in Mary’s pregnancy (Matthew 1:18–25). Angels indeed seem to be everywhere in the Christmas story, and everybody wants to play one when acting out the birth accounts.
But when we turn to the book of Hebrews, angels are assigned the “back seat.” Why is that so?
More than likely, by the time the letter to the Hebrews was written, an “angel cult” had developed among early believers and had grown to the point that angels were threatening to diminish the role of Jesus in their worship. Consequently, the writer felt it urgent to remind his readers that as important as angels are to the gospel story, they are inferior to Christ and are “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14 NIV). In other words, angels (whose name means “messengers”) have been sent to watch over God’s people who find themselves under constant persecution and tribulation in a world that is hostile to Jesus and His followers.
It may be that as we move into the Christmas season, you are finding it hard to gear up for the Advent promise of hope, peace, joy, and love. It may be that you have landed in a place that is more than you can handle, and you stand in need of a divine visitation that will funnel God’s grace in a life-saving way.
I must say there have been plenty of those seasons in my life, and as I look back on them, I have seen on more than one occasion how God has sustained me, directed me, warned me, or encouraged me through the means of a divine presence that I have only realized after the fact. Was that presence an angel? I don’t know about you, but I certainly have space in my system of belief for such a reality. But more times than not, the “ministering spirits [God] sent to serve” me came in the form of a family member, or a trusted friend, or a fellow church member—folk God sent to me through whom He might work to sustain me in my time of need. I believe these, too, were angels.
Our world today is groping and grasping for direction. In this special season of the year, people seem to be more open to someone who can help them find their way. I don’t know that it’s enough for us to believe in angels; I think it’s far more important that we aspire to be like them as we point others to Jesus—God’s Word that became flesh, the One whom God “appointed heir of all things, and through whom also He made the universe” (Hebrews 1:2 NIV).
Hebrews 1:1-14 (NIV):
1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son;
today I have become your Father”?
“I will be his Father,
and he will be my Son”?
6 And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says,
“Let all God’s angels worship him.”
7 In speaking of the angels he says,
“He makes his angels spirits,
and his servants flames of fire.”
8 But about the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;
a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy.”
10 He also says,
“In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
11 They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
12 You will roll them up like a robe;
like a garment they will be changed.
But you remain the same,
and your years will never end.”
13 To which of the angels did God ever say,
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet”?
14 Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?