“Angels we have Heard on High.”
“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’ And SUDDENLY there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’” (Luke 2:8-14 ESV).
The question is this, can you hear the angels singing? It’s not a complicated question. Either you do or you do not.
The shepherds heard the angels—and it scared them to death. That’s one thing that angels do—they frighten people. The angel told Joseph, “Fear not.” Gabriel said to Mary, “Fear not.” And the angel told the shepherds, “Fear not.” Angels are truly “out of this world.” They come from another place, from another realm of reality, from another dimension. One moment the shepherds are minding their own business in the fields outside Bethlehem, the next moment an angel is talking to them. Suddenly the sky is filled with a multitude of angels. The word “multitude” means just what it implies—an uncountable number, a vast array of bright, shining beings, filling the night sky, praising God (loudly, I’m sure), and saying “Glory to God in the highest!”
The most telling word of our text comes in verse 13: Suddenly! It means without warning, without prior announcement, it means that the angels weren’t there, and then they were everywhere. The angels were nowhere to be seen, and all at once they filled the sky. Some questions come to mind at this point. If we had been there, would we have seen the angels? Could the people in Bethlehem see the angels? Could they be seen in Jerusalem—eight miles away? Could the sound of their voices be heard in other places, or did the angels reveal themselves only to the shepherds? We cannot fully answer these questions, but this much is certain: The angels were there, and the shepherds really did hear them.
Again, can you hear the angels singing? Either you do or you don’t. The shepherds heard them. Mary heard them. Joseph heard them. I don’t think Herod heard a thing. That’s a hugely key point because the great divide in the world comes right here — some people see the angels, others don’t. Some people hear them, others don’t. Some people believe in the supernatural, others don’t.
In my heart and soul, in the silent night, I have heard them a thousand times. Their spiritual reality is a matter of perception, not proof.” There are some things that can never be proved. How do you prove the beauty of a sunset, a beautiful flower garden? In the early days of space travel (1961) Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin came back to earth and declared that he had looked for God in space and didn’t see him anywhere. To some people the Grand Canyon is just a big ditch. None are so blind as those who refuse to see or hear.
Angels pop up everywhere in the Christmas story. An angel tells Mary she will give birth to Jesus. An angel tells Joseph to call his name Jesus. An angel warns Mary and Joseph to flee to Egypt. An angel tells them when it’s safe to return to Israel. And in our text, an angel announces the birth of Christ to the shepherds, and then the angelic choir serenades them.
Angels from on high remind us that this world is not our permanent home. Like the Wisemen we are just pilgrims passing through. We are citizens of heaven. We are headed for a city which has foundations whose builder and maker is God. One day we shall be like him and like the angels and forever with him. Then all the gold of this world will lose its glitter and every foundation shall shatter.
The focus of the angels on that first Christmas night was Jesus only. Christmas was God coming down to earth. The infinite became finite, the immortal became mortal, the creator became the created, the Almighty became a helpless baby.
Angels brought to the world the greatest news they would ever hear. “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” Can you hear the angels singing? They bring good news from the other side of creation, good news of boundless joy, the best news the world has ever heard: Joy to the World, the Lord is Come, let earth receive her King!
If you listen with all your heart, you can still hear them singing: “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth among those with whom he is pleased.” All this was so amazing to the angels that they are still singing about it in heaven. I pray this Christmas has put a song of love and thankfulness in your heart as it did to all those on that first Christmas night. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son” “The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.” (John 3:16; Titus 2:11 ESV). This is the heartbeat of Christmas. He was born in a manger that he might be born in your heart.
Pastor Robert Bryant