Advent And The Angels
The onset of Christmas season becomes joyful only when, like the angels speaking to the shepherds, we also reach out to others with this good news of the Savior’s coming.

Advent And The Angels

The period of Advent commences from four weeks before Christmas and this is a period of waiting and preparing for the Lord’s coming to the earth as the Messiah to save mankind from the clutches of sin. But is it about His first coming or the second? What does this wait imply and what are we supposed to be doing during this august period? The Gospel stories list out the special role that the angels played before, during and after the birth of the Son of God. The angels role is restricted to being a messenger of God or will it be more than that in future?

        What is Advent and when did it start? – Advent meaning coming is taken from Latin word adventus and Greek word parousia. It is believed that during the 4th and 5th centuries in Spain and Gaul, it was a season of preparation for the baptism of new Christians at the January feast of Epiphany. 6th century onwards Advent was tied to the coming of Lord Jesus by the Roman Christians but the expected coming was not about His first coming in Bethlehem but the second coming in the clouds to judge the people. Present meaning of Advent started in the Middle Ages only and comprises of the four weeks period before Christmas when we prepare ourselves for His coming. The period of Advent actually started immediately after sin entered the world and the devil was cursed through God’s prophecy about the ‘seed of woman’ crushing the serpent’s head and in return getting bruised in the heel. From that moment onwards the onset of the waiting period for His coming started.

       The period of waiting is about surrendering before God, confession of sins committed deliberately or inadvertently as commissions and omissions, acknowledging the evil we have done and the good we have not done to seek forgiveness. It is about repentance and seeking the Lord’s guiding hand to overcome temptations and lies of the devil and about reaching out to others with the message of Good News about the Messiah Lord’s coming as Savior to lead them into His glorious light.

       During this waiting period God’s word was conveyed to mankind through various means and angels were the main communicators with the chosen people who then carried the message of God to others. Angel is the translation of Hebrew word ‘malak’ and Greek word ‘angelos’ which means a messenger. Angels are heavenly created beings which act according to God’s will and command. Even the Son of God also appears many times in the Old Testament for He carries the messages from the Creator to His creation and His appearance is characterized by spelling the word with a capital letter A. The resurrected Lord while speaking to the two disciples en route to Emaus explained to them ‘beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself’ (Luke 24:27).   

      During the Old Testament period angels reached out to help and guide people during their times of distress, to help Hagar as she flees from Abraham’s camp (Genesis 16:7,11); to avert tragedy of obedience where Abraham was provided a sacrificial ram to save Isaac from being killed (Genesis 22:11,15); to bless Jacob and change his name to Israel after wrestling with him (Genesis 32:24-32) and speaking from the burning bush to send Moses to Egypt (Exodus 3:2) and many more. The frequency of appearance of angels comes down as the Old Testament times progress. In the book Samuel 1 and 2 angel of the LORD appears only once; in 1 and 2 Kings only three times and an angel guides Israel out of Egypt but none was there to lead them in second exodus from Babylonian captivity. However, nowhere in the Old Testament is there a cluster of angelic activity.

       The New Testament starts with groups of angels operating singly and in numbers where Joseph is told to take Mary as his wife (Matthew 1:20,24); and  Joseph is instructed to flee from Herod and later assures him of safety in returning home (Matthew 2:13 & 19). Priest Zecharaias was informed by angel Gabriel about John the Baptist’s birth (Luke 1:11-13) and then the same angel informs Mary about the Savior’s birth through her (Luke 1:26-38). An angel informs the shepherds about Lord Jesus’ birth and is then joined by a multitude of angels praising God (Luke 2:9-10 and 13). Among the Old Testament saints only Jacob saw what those shepherds saw a group of the hosts of heaven ascending and descending the ladder to heaven but he did not hear them sing. The angels would generally stay put in heaven worshipping and praising God before His heavenly throne.

      With the Savior’s coming, heaven comes to the earth for heaven is where God is. The angels proclaim to the shepherds ‘Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men’ (Luke 2:14). This link between heaven and earth by the Lord is revealed in the Scripture it goes back to Genesis 1:1 and 2:1-4 where whole of creation was in harmony with heaven (Matthew 5:18 and 11:25). Adam’s sin destroyed the unity of heaven and earth where the latter goes its own way ignoring the God of heaven and goes under the control of ‘prince of this world’. When the angels sing to the shepherds we know that the time has come for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven and both will be ruled by the LORD thus returning the earth and heaven into harmony.

       The second part of Advent is about the relationship of man with the angels – Apostles Stephen (Acts 7:53) and Paul (Galatians 3:19) reveal that the Torah or the first five Books of the Bible were about YHWH God’s covenant with man as mediated through the angels. King David proclaims that man was created a little lower than the angels (Psalm 8:5) but Apostle Paul then reveals that man’s elevation to judge the angels begins with the coming of the Messiah (1 Corinthians 6:3). YHWH God is surrounded by the angels singing His glory in heaven as seen by Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 6:2-4). It is fitting then that the Son of God should be surrounded by the sons of Adam as they celebrate His ascension as the triumphant Lamb (Revelation 5:11-14). The angels proclaim the Good News that in Lord Jesus mankind has reached its destiny, as man made from dust begins to share the glory of the Son (John 17:22).

       The end of the season of Advent will be after Lord Jesus’ second coming and other than the Holy Spirit angels are the most pivotal players in the Christmas story. An angel brought the news to Joseph in Gospel of Matthew and then in the Gospel of Luke one announces His birth to Mary and then a group of them announce this to the public at large through the shepherds.

      Important revelations for us in the angels’ messages – The angel told the shepherds, ‘I bring good news of great joy which will be to all people’ (Luke 2:10). First part is of the ‘good news’ which is for those who know themselves to be lowly, humbled by sin, suffering and facing death need this good news as also those under the control of the flesh and the devil. Apostle Matthew lists a great number of people in the genealogy of the Messiah people who needed this good news. We have Judah who led his brothers to sell Joseph their brother into slavery; there is Tamar, the Canaanite daughter-in-law of Judah who because of his negligence poses as a prostitute to produce two sons by Judah, her father-in-law, to save from extinction the line from which Messiah was to come. Then there is Rahab, a Canaanite prostitute of Jericho who believed in the God of Abraham and is saved by Joshua and his spies. There is Ruth, the Moabite woman from the lineage of incest of Lot with his daughters and we have King David who became father of Solomon by committing adultery with Bathsheba the wife of Uriah, whom David gets killed in battle. And we have Jeconiah and his brothers who are from the last of the royal family before they are taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon. In the genealogy we see swindlers, usurpers, harlots, daughters of incest, adulterers and causalities of sin and they all needed to hear the good news of the Messiah’s coming. The angels bring good news of great joy to all like me and you but to rejoice in this message we must have ears to hear what the Holy Spirit said through them.

      Second part is that the announcements of the Savior’s coming was for all people. But this does not mean that Lord Jesus’ role is of a universalist God who desires that all of mankind without exception must enter His Divine presence. He saves only the ‘chosen ones’, those who repent and believe and He is impartial in giving His saving grace and mercy to the sinners. The angels tell us that God is partial to no nationality, class, language, gender or any other distinction made by man. How do we respond to this impartiality of God? Jonah was very displeased with God that His impartiality could include even those notorious sinners of Nineveh, if they repented. Jonah even cried out, ‘O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live’ ((Jonah 4:3). The angels declared the birth announcement of the Savior to ‘all people’ not to any particular community only.

      Also, that ‘all people’ are not according to some spiritual or physical standards but ‘the good news of great joy’ comes to people in bondage to their sins regardless of any other special distinguishing category that we may give. The message is for me as well for all others who are ready to receive it.

      The angels also reveal the persona of the Lord that He is ‘Savior’ to save people from their bondage to sin (Luke 2:11). His very name Jesus itself means ‘YHWH (Yehowah) saves’, deliverance greater than Moses, David or Joshua who saved from their Gentile enemies. Lord Jesus delivers people from sins and since only God can redeem people from sins (Psalm 130:18), therefore Jesus is God. The Child in the manger is not only ‘Savior’ but also ‘Christ’ the Anointed One of God. He is the final Priest and prophet anointed to offer Himself as a sacrifice for forgiveness of sins, the True King anointed to conquer sin and death and make the believers secure and pure for fellowship with God (Luke 2:11). The Child is ‘the Lord’ and rather He is ‘God with us’, He is Sovereign, He is God, from Whom, to Whom and through Whom are all things. The angels confirm the prophecy about Him that ‘He is the Son called ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of peace’ whose government shall never end. He will lift up the lowly and humbled by faith and bring down the proud and mighty (Isaiah 9:6). The angels give us hope that there is someone greater than Abraham, Moses and Joshua, David and every other prophet who is here. This is the ‘good news of great joy’ to ‘all the people’.

      The role of angels in Lord Jesus’ second coming- The role of angels as per the four Gospels was in line with the role of the Savior in His first coming. The angels declared the message, after temptation of the Lord in the wilderness Satan departed and the ‘angels came and ministered to Him’ (Matthew 4:11). In like manner in the Gethsemane Park, ‘an angel appeared to Him from heaven strengthening Him’ (Luke 22:43). He had twelve legions of angels available to strike His enemies and could have destroyed everything but He taught and practiced to ‘love your enemies also’ (Matthew 26:53). During the Second Coming His role is not of a Servant King but as Judge of the world and Lord Jesus will come riding a white horse and then judgment would start (Revelation 19:11-16). The angels will not only be setting events in motion at God’s command but also form part of the heavenly army coming with the Lord.

      What are we supposed to do? – Lord Jesus revealed the Kingdom of heaven mysteries through two parables. The first is about the ten virgins when five were foolish and unprepared thus losing the right of entry. The next is about a man travelling to a far country and giving talents ‘to each according to his ability’. The two servants who had used the gift to earn more were commended and commanded to ‘enter into the joy of your lord’ while the unprofitable servant was cast into outer darkness and ‘there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Further He defines the good works expected from us. It is about giving food to the hungry, water to the thirsty, caring for the stranger, clothing the naked, caring for the sick and reaching out to the prisoners of sin and worldly desires (Matthew 25). While we wait for His coming we develop a close bonding with the Lord. ‘His name is called The Word of God’ and we connect to Him through the written word and through the Holy Spirit while revealing His love, grace and mercy to others through our good deeds of faith to lead them from darkness to light (Revelation 19:13). He has provided whatever resources I need and have for His glory and I must use everything for that to hear from Him, ‘well done My faithful servant. Enter the joy of your Lord’.

     Advent or our waiting for His coming loses all meaning without this. Apostle Paul warns about not being idle, to not return evil for evil and above all ‘do not quench the Holy Spirit’ by continued disobedience to God’s Word (1 Thessalonians 5:8& 15-23). One part of Advent is completed by the Savior’s first coming and the message of ‘Good News’ is for all people but only those will benefit who repent of their sins and seek forgiveness. It is not about our sitting idle but about reaching out to te multitudes in darkness to lead them into His Divine glory.

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