Messengers of the Advent

Pietro Perugino [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Pietro Perugino [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Many things in the Christmas season stir the soul. Christmas brings us reminders of what was given for us and what we should give to others. When we think of giving to others, most think about the item purchased or craft made as gift given to another. However, we forget that sometimes gifts come in the form of information; gifts can be intangible. For example, some wait until Christmas to announce marriage plans, life plans, or the birth of a child. Perhaps one chooses to name a child in honor of a family member. Information or good news provides joy, an incorporeal gift, to the receiver. The angels of the Christmas story create a similar condition when they announce the advent of Christ. They played a prominent role in the proclamation of Christ’s advent. The angel announced the birth of Jesus to Joseph and later directed him to Egypt and back (Mt. 2:13, 20). The angel announced Christ’s birth to Mary (Luke 1:29-34). The announcement of Christ’s birth to the shepherds remains the most prominent for most (Luke 2:9-20). In all cases, the angel’s role was that of an evangelist, as Webster defines it, an enthusiastic advocate of something. A common understanding of the term angel in the New Testament is messenger. The Messengers were enthusiastic advocates of Jesus’ birth and all that would now become a reality because of his coming. Clearly Luke’s gospel reflects this as records that,

Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” [Luke 2:9-14] [1]

We have an angel’s ministry in our time, messengers as enthusiastic advocates of Christ’s coming to earth. In fulfilling our role, we, like the angels that announced Christ’s birth glorify him. Origin summarized the role of evangelists well in this respect in his commentary of the gospel of John. He points out,

Now if there are those among men who are honoured with the ministry of evangelists, and if Jesus Himself brings tidings of good things, and preaches the Gospel to the poor, surely those messengers who were made spirits by God, those who are a flame of fire, ministers of the Father of all, cannot have been excluded from being evangelists also. Hence an angel standing over the shepherds made a bright light to shine round about them, and said: “Fear not; behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all the people; for there is born to you, this day, a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David.” And at a time when there was no knowledge among men of the mystery of the Gospel, those who were greater than men and inhabitants of heaven, the army of God, praised God, saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among men.” And having said this, the angels go away from the shepherds into heaven, leaving us to gather how the joy preached to us through the birth of Jesus Christ is glory in the highest to God; they humbled themselves even to the ground, and then returned to their place of rest, to glorify God in the highest through Jesus Christ. But the angels also wonder at the peace which is to be brought about on account of Jesus on the earth, that seat of war, on which Lucifer, star of the morning, fell from heaven, to be warred against and destroyed by Jesus.[2]

Christmas season reminds us to proclaim the good news of Christ’s advent to earth.

[1] Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation (3rd ed.; Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2007), Lk 2:9–14.

[2] Origen, “Origen’s Commentary on the Gospel of John”, trans. Allan Menzies, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume IX: The Gospel of Peter, the Diatessaron of Tatian, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Visio Pauli, the Apocalypses of the Virgil and Sedrach, the Testament of Abraham, the Acts of Xanthippe and Polyxena, the Narrative of Zosimus, the Apology of Aristides, the Epistles of Clement (Complete Text), Origen’s Commentary on John, Books I-X, and Commentary on Matthew, Books I, II, and X-XIV ( ed. Allan Menzies;New York: Christian Literature Company, 1897), 304.


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