Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cultivating Angels

Another Christmas has come and gone. We gathered with families and friends, exchanged gifts and shared about our lives, our years and our hopes. We listened again to the story of the birth of Jesus, whether from the mouth of Linus in "A Charlie Brown Christmas," from the pulpit of a meeting house or at home in our devotional times.

Angels are a big part of that story. An angel tells Mary of an unexpected birth. In a dream, an angel answers the confusion and anxiety Joseph must have felt. Shepherds hear the news from a heavenly host of angels. And an angel warns Joseph and Mary to leave before Herod can find and kill the baby Jesus.

Are angels still speaking to us today, or are they something we only find in the Bible?

To understand the question we need to understand what an angel is. When we think of angels we often picture white, glowing persons with wings. The angel's voice is usually filtered through a reverberation chamber and the angels visit is accompanied by various special effects involving lights and flying.

A New Testament angel is different. An angel in the New Testament is literally a "messenger." It is a word directly connected to "gospel" or "good news." Angels are the messengers who bring the good news of God's offer of deliverance. These messengers of God are an important part of the revelation of God through Jesus and appear throughout the ministry of Jesus. But there is no mention of wings, lights or booming voices.

Let's look at another messenger from God--

The gospel of John begins telling the story of Jesus at a different place than the other gospels:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. John 1:1-5 (NIV)
And, in common with the other gospels there is a messenger, but he is an "angel" of a different sort:
There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. John 1:6-9 (NIV)
John, son of Elizabeth and Zechariah, a cousin of Jesus, is the messenger delivering good news.

Are angels still speaking to us today? Yes! God brings messengers in many forms into our lives to bring us good news and reveal to us God's deliverance. Like Mary, Joseph, the shephers and the Magi, we need to be listening for those messages.

We need to cultivate "angels." As we identify those around us who are delivering news that is from God and as we develop our listening skills, we discover God speaking to us as well.

I am thankful for the messengers in my life.

Keep listening,
pastor Bill