During Christmas celebrations at schools and churches, we often see many young children dressed up as angels in bright and shining clothes and waiting in the wings behind stage. The very spectacle reminds us of the first Christmas when angels played key roles in the unfolding drama.
Many wonder who the angels really are? Angels are created heavenly beings who stand in the presence of a holy God. They are powerful creatures with great might and wisdom. Day and night they worship God singing praises to the splendour of his holiness.
There are different ranks of angels. Some of them are “messengers” (for that is what the word angel means); others act as agents of judgement. Though extremely powerful they do not act according to their wish or fancy, but they stand ready to do God’s will at all times. They are a vast army without number which we humans can’t comprehend or count.
The one qualifying mark of an angel is, to quote the words of Angel Gabriel, “I stand in the presence of God.” Christmas is therefore a reminder of the fact that the earth and its inhabitants are under God’s constant watch and care since angels who stand in the presence of God are sent to earth. The Bible records that “angels are ministering spirits” who are sent to serve those who trust in God.
Angels, though messengers, never forget their primary calling, that is to worship God.They do not accept worship from men but encourage people to worship God. When Jesus was born, they not only announced the message of his birth to shepherds; not only sang “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” (Glory to God in the Highest), but also all angels worshipped him!
Angels also have a protective role. Though they seldom make themselves visible to God’s children, they have often intervened to protect them and deliver them in spectacular and less marvellous ways. Jesus even said that the (guardian) angels of children in heaven always see the face of his Father in heaven.
Angels are immortal. They do not die. Those people who trust in God when they die will be resurrected at the last day, and will die no more and be like the angels. In that sense angels bring us “Intimations of Immortality” to borrow a turn of phrase from Wordsworth.
Angels do have a ministry of encouragement as they are often sent to refresh the weary traveller and the discouraged man. They also strengthen the resolve of those who resist the temptation to do evil.
The first Christmas was punctuated by angelic activity to let us know that the birth of Jesus Christ was no accident. Instead it was planned in heaven and executed on earth. In that sense the birth of Jesus was a fulfilment of the dream a man called Jacob had where he saw a ladder (a stairway) resting on earth and its top touching heaven. The ladder was symbolic of Jesus, and angels were ascending and descending on it. And he is the bridge between man and God.
Someday the world will see the great and vast army of angels. That will happen when Jesus Christ comes again to this earth “on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.” Then all angels will accompany him. And one day with angels numbering countless ten thousands upon ten thousands, our tongues too shall proclaim aloud the praises of God our Saviour, Redeemer and Friend.