I don't know how most pastors do it, but I begin thinking about my Christmas Eve messages a couple of months in advance of the big days (for us the days are Dec. 23 & 24). All messages are important, Christmas Eve is very important. It's sometimes the only chance a church has to convey the gospel in a hopeful, relevant and meaningful way for an entire audience of people who only come once a year.
So, the theme that I have been hashing out in my mind, over the past few months is that of Angels. Yes, this Christmas I want to talk about those gleaming, white, be-winged visages who mysteriously appear throughout the Bible.
I know, I know, I hear you. Angels are so passe, and frankly a little weird. Angels, in today's world have become a unique form of their own idolatry. Angel fetishes and icons are a hallmark of Hallmark stores and a focal point of New Age focus. I know, I feel the same way. However, in this season of challenge and economic recession, a real interpretation of Angels may be helpful to people, as heavenly beings we can learn something from. The hope that angels offer the world, the mission that angels give people from God, the singular focus on pointing people to Christ, is what we must do if we are to live out the call of God correctly in our lives. We need, "To Be Like the Angels", in a world that is so lost and fallen.
One of my favorite stories in the Bible about angels is found in the book of Judges - it's the story of Gideon. The text begins with a description of how far the Israelites have fallen from God's grace and God's vision. The Midianites are ravaging the land. One day, a boy servant by the name of Gideon is secretively threshing out wheat in a winepress, to keep his meal from his oppressors. The image of a scrawny, sad, dirty, Oliver Twist-like character comes to my mind, when I think of Gideon the way God finds him. The Bible says, "The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah," and simply observed Gideon for a little while. After watching him for an uncertain amount of time, the angel simply says, "The Lord is with you, mighty warrior." (Judges 6:11-12).
Gideon replies with incredulity, uncertainty and a lack of hope. "If the Lord is with me, then why is my life going so badly [sic]" (Judges 6:13). Gideon's reply is the is the cry of the world right now.
The angel then gives Gideon a great task. "Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand." (Judges 6:14). Gideon argues back and forth with the angel for a good chapter or two, but God's messenger sticks with his primary task: encouragement, hopefulness, purposefulness.
Our task, our role as Christ followers is similar to the role of angels in the Bible. God wants us to meet people at their places of challenge. God wants us to simply "be a presence" in that place of challenge, before we even say a word. Then, at exactly the precise and right moment (God will tell us when that is), we are supposed to encourage the people we interact with. Most of all, people need to hear that "God is With Them" (Emmanu-El) God is with us in our uncertainty, our pain, our fallenness, our confusion, our alacrity, our finite selves. Finally, God wants us to give people something more to live for - a great mission to be a part of. God wants us to send people, "In the strength that they already have," to do great things for Him, and for the world
So, that's where I am going on Christmas Eve. Any comments or thoughts from you all are welcome as I process this message.
Log in with me for the next three weeks as I continue to explore how you and I can, "Be Like the Angels" this Christmas Season.
All For Now,