One of the things I love about Advent and Christmas is thinking about how various people in the Christmas accounts heard the good news of great joy that the long-promised Savior was coming into the world.
Read through the reflection below and consider Christmas through the eyes of angels, then use the discussion questions to consider how others might have received the news of the Savior.
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
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!”
As a child and in my years as a pastor, I have tended to hear the Christmas account through the lens of the shepherds. This is likely the case because I can so readily relate to the shepherds. They too needed a Savior and the “good news of great joy that will be for all the people” was first heard by the shepherds, but it’s the message I have heard too.
But recently I’ve been thinking about Christmas from the perspective of the angels.
Angels are fascinating creatures. They are invisible to us, yet very real. They are created beings, but they do not die. So consider this…
The angels were there to see the perfection of Eden. They saw the world God had created and declared to be very good. They witnessed the perfection of God’s creation before it was shattered and warped by sin. The angels knew just how good things were for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, because they had witnessed it. They were witnesses to a world in which man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. God, and man vs. himself didn’t exist. Sin, death and pain were unknown in this perfect creation.
The angels had seen this perfection and how good it was for man.
The angels had also seen how badly sin had wrecked everything.
The angels were there to witness how difficult and dangerous farming and childbearing became as a result of sin. They saw how sin resulted in in death.
But it seems quite likely that they had also been there to hear the promise from God that He would send one who would make things right again. (Genesis 3:14-15)
Angels were around when Cain murdered his brother Abel. They saw the rise in wickedness in the world as people turned away from God and how even after God sent a flood, mankind returned to wickedness in no time flat.
The angels had seen God raise up a runt of the litter shepherd boy to become King of Israel, establishing a strong kingdom. They had also seen how the descendants of David had bungled things so badly that it didn’t take long after David’s death, only one more generation, for the kingdom to recede so greatly that it was a mere shadow of what it had been. Yet they were also there to hear God’s promise that He would give David a descendant who would rule eternally.
The angels existed when the prophets first spoke as they were carried by the Holy Spirit and foretold the coming of the Messiah, the Savior of mankind.
Considering all of this, I don’t doubt that the joy of the angels may have been even greater than that joy of the shepherds to whom they brought the message. For the angels knew far better than the shepherds just how much the birth of Jesus meant for mankind.
You can imagine the great joy of the angel who got to tell the shepherds the good news, as he did what he was created to do (angel means “messenger”). And you can imagine the great joy of the angel army who couldn’t wait to glorify God as soon as the good news was announced.
I picture the angels, who knew Eden and knew that Jesus had come to restore Eden for mankind, bubbling with joy and excitement as they glorified God saying “Glory to God in the highest!” and rejoiced for mankind at the good news of great joy that Jesus was born.
This Christmas, as you hear that familiar account from Luke 2 again, consider the joy of the angels. Then joyously join them in singing “Glory to God in the highest!”
- Read Matthew 1:18-25 and consider Christmas through the eyes of Joseph
- What kinds of pressures might Joseph have faced as a man betrothed to a woman who was pregnant?
- How might Joseph have felt knowing that the child was not his own?
- What message did Joseph receive from an angel of the Lord?
- How might Joseph have felt now knowing the he was going to serve as the adoptive father of Immanuel?
- Read Luke 1:26-38 and consider Christmas through the eyes of Mary
- What kind of hardships might she have faced, being pregnant and unmarried?
- How might this have impacted her relationships with family? Friends?
- How might Mary have felt knowing that she was bearing the Son of God?
- Now consider your friends and neighbors who are not yet Christians
- When they hear about “Christmas,” what do you think comes to mind?
- Do they know the good news of great joy that the angels rejoiced to proclaim when Jesus was born?
- Do they understand why you would make being at church for Christmas a priority?
- “Angel” means “messenger” and it was through a message from an angel that Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds heard the good news of great joy. How can friends and neighbors hear the message today?
Dear Heavenly Father, just as you sent angels as messengers to proclaim the good news of Jesus’ birth, send us out also with your Holy Spirit to share the good news of Jesus to others. Forgive us for failing to trust and see all you have done for us. Empower us to share your salvation story that you have been writing since the beginning. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Read the book Great Joy by Kate Decamillo and talk about how the story of Jesus can be one we share with great joy to everyone.