The Advent wreath comes full circle this week, with only the center candle remaining. The prophecy candle, Bethlehem candle, and Shepherd’s candle are all alight, and we complete the wreath’s circle—a symbol of God’s everlasting love and faithfulness—by lighting the angels’ candle.
Angels have a recurring role in the Christmas narrative. An angel is God’s mouthpiece first to Zechariah about the birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:8–20), then to both Joseph and Mary about the birth of Christ, communicating God’s marvelous plan and the young couple’s involvement in it—even answering their questions and easing their fears (Luke 1:26–38, Matt. 1:20–25).
Later, an angel appears to the shepherds at night, surrounding them with God’s visible glory and the famous “fear not!” greeting. The sky bursts with heavenly fanfare—a host of angels heralding the Savior’s birth for their lowly and astonished audience (Luke 2:8–14).
Even after Jesus’ birth, Joseph is warned by an angel in a dream to flee to Egypt with his family because of Herod’s vicious intent against the Christ child, thereby fulfilling an Old Testament prophecy: “out of Egypt I called my son” (Matt. 2:13–15; Hos. 11:1).
The appearances of these angels are awesome—heaven invading earth at this crux of God’s redemptive plan. We can only imagine what it would be like to stand before such a messenger as Mary did, or gaze with the shepherds into the starry sky and watch it fill with angels proclaiming God’s glory and his humble condescension.
But the cornerstone of their messages, their heralding, their warnings, was—and is—Jesus Christ.
Angels seem like the most dazzling part of the Christmas narrative, and are certainly the only characters in the nativity with any sparkle to speak of. But every angelic appearance, and the amazing spectacle of the heavenly hosts across the skies, proclaimed one unified message: Glory to God, the Savior has come to earth!
Even the angelic hosts bow before Christ, worshipping the One who is greater, heralding and praising he who “has inherited a more excellent name than they”—God the Son (Heb. 1:4 NASB). Rather than competing with the majesty of Christ, they exist to magnify it by worshipping and serving him so that when we look at the work of angels, our gaze continues to Jesus, to dwell on him and his great glory.
Forever this has been and will be the role of angels: to do the bidding of Christ, in submission to him (Ps. 103:20, 1 Pet. 3:22), ministering in the lives of believers and rejoicing at the repentance of sinners (Heb. 1:14, Luke 15:10), then accompanying him at his return when the trumpet sounds and the elect are gathered (Matt. 24:31). The Christmas refrain “Glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:14) is forever echoed in Heaven by winged creatures crying, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,” and, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Rev. 5:12, 4:8).
We, with the angels, give praise and glory to the One who is worthy, as fellow messengers of his redemptive plan and heralds of his renown. And one day, all of creation will join us in worship. With one voice, every created thing on earth, above the earth, and below the earth will forever bow and glorify the Eternal God.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5–11)
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