You could argue that everybody but Jesus is an “extra” in the Christmas story. The narrative of the incarnation has but one Hero. But that’s not to say that those with supporting roles were chosen at random. No, every detail of Christ’s coming was significant, from the lowly shepherds (“Nobody and Everybody,” as we considered last week), to the heavenly angels.
The angels were God’s “cosmic couriers” in the Christmas story. The very word angel means messenger in Greek. God sent Gabriel to Mary to announce her approaching conception (Luke 1:26-38). (By the way, we should celebrate Jesus’ conception, not just His birth. Join me next March 25th!) Similarly, God sent an angel to Joseph to assure Mary’s heartbroken fiancé of her innocence (Matthew 1:20-21). But the most notable of all the angelic announcements concerning Jesus’ arrival was made to nameless shepherds (Luke 2:8-14).
Quite literally, the angel was communicating the gospel
The angel’s message to the shepherds was “good news of great joy.” Wycliffe translated Luke 2:10 as “I evangelize to you a great joy.” Quite literally, the angel was communicating the gospel, and his message was unmistakably doctrinal.
- He preached the humanity of Christ (“…unto you is born this day… you will find a baby…”, vv. 10-11).
- He preached the deity of Christ (“…which is Christ, the Lord…”, v. 11).
- He preached the mission of Christ (“…a Savior…”, v. 11).
The angelic sermon now complete, it was time for a closing hymn: a multitude of angels shouted/chanted/sang yet another announcement, rejoicing that Jesus’ birth brought Glory to God in the highest and Grace to man in the lowest (vv. 13-14).
Here’s the thing. As I understand it, that’s the last time God used an angel to preach the gospel to sinners! He could have done so throughout the history of the church if He had chosen to. It certainly would have been more efficient! But instead, God has entrusted the gospel of Jesus’ saving work to Christians. We are God’s chosen messengers. We who have been reconciled by faith in Christ have also been entrusted with the message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). As David Platt says so memorably in Radical, “We are the plan of God, and there is no plan B.” It’s up to us.
God could have entrusted the gospel message to angels, but instead, He entrusted it to us
The angels announced good news of great joy. And in so doing, they passed the gospel baton to us. Once again we learn that the gospel is never but a small step away from a call to missions. The angels remind us to be faithful and urgent in the great work of ev-angel-ism. God help us. Grace!
Artwork by Chris Koelle