By Stuart Powell
Note: This is the final installment of a four-week series of Communion meditations in which we consider essential features to the story of the birth of God’s Son. This week we focus on the angels.
Angels appeared six separate times in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth and early childhood (Matthew 1:20-21; 2:13, 19-20; Luke 1:11-20, 26-38; 2:9-15). Luke tells us the angel Gabriel spoke to Zechariah and Mary. No names were mentioned in the other four visits. Most times a single angel appeared, which is how the encounter with the shepherds began. Yet after the message was delivered to the fearful shepherds, the gates of Heaven swung open and an army of God-praising angels invaded the Bethlehem hillside.
The years of waiting were over. God had not forgotten his messianic plan, and the angels announced that good news. Zechariah’s son would announce the Messiah’s arrival. Mary of Nazareth accepted the honor of carrying the baby. Joseph was the son of David who claimed Jesus as his own. The shepherds ignited the fire of God’s good news in Judea.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, we remember and celebrate the messages of hope the angels delivered. And when we gather around the Lord’s table, we remember and celebrate the fulfilled hope in the message other angels delivered three decades after Jesus’ was born:
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” Then they remembered his words. When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others (Luke 24:1-9).
As we eat the bread and drink from the cup this week, let’s recall more than the baby in the manger. Listen again to the message of hope proclaimed at Jesus’ birth. And let’s also remember our Savior, who was crucified for our sins, justifying us before God. He was buried, yet he conquered death and rose from the grave, paving a pathway that we might enjoy eternal life with him in Heaven. That is good news of great joy for all people.
Stuart Powell lives outside of Terre Haute, Indiana, where he serves with the North Side Christian Church.
Image: Detail of The Infant Christ and Two Angels from the 1700s; courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.