Sunday, November 28, 2021

All about Angels: What do they look like? What do they see? Impressions from Gabriel's encounter

What do you see out a window? I have big windows at my house that allow me to look out on the neighborhood, the trees, the cars going by, and its wonderful. I can watch the snow falling, I can see the sun when it’s shining. A window is a way for us to see something we couldn’t see otherwise.

In the same way, we’re going to consider what it must’ve been like for someone to witness personally, two thousand years ago, the birth of Jesus. Can you really see through someone else’s eyes? Can you really understand how someone else is perceiving something? I think through this Christmas series we’ll begin to understand what it must’ve been like, long ago, to be there, in the moment, when hope came into the world.

Today, we are considering what it was like for the angels, who saw these events take place, and how they might’ve perceived these events and the birth of Jesus.

So let’s talk a little bit about angels. What are angels? Let’s take a look at some scriptures that tell us about angels. But you’ll notice there is no comprehensive guide to angels in the Bible. We’re not supposed to focus our attention on angels. Our attention should be on God. But we do get hints about what angels are in the Bible.

Matthew 18:10 ESV “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”

Luke 15:10 ESV Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Exodus 23:20 ESV “Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared.

Matthew 26:53 ESV Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?

What do angels look like? Well, it seems like angels can take human form, because there is a scripture that encourages us to entertain strangers because we may entertain angels without knowing it.

But then we see this depiction of seraphim, a class of angels, described like this “Isaiah 6:2 ESV Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.

Some angels may appear very human, perhaps like statues we see around catholic churches, or like portrayals of angels in media. However, other angels appear to be quite different, with many sets of wings, and eyes covering them, and so on and so forth. Very mysterious.

But we know that angels are servants of God. They have free will. Which is why some angels chose to rebel against God in heaven. Angels have power to do the work of God in the world. Obviously normally we can’t see them with our own eyes, unless they allow themselves to be seen. But let’s turn it around. What do angels see? And what did one angel see, long long ago, when Jesus would soon begin growing in the womb of a teenage mother?

Let’s talk about one specific angel, named Gabriel. What was it like for him? Well, we can only imagine, but perhaps Gabriel was called into God’s throne room, and God gave him a very special task, he was to go to a poor, teenage young woman named Mary, and give her some interesting news about the course of her life.

This is how these events are recorded in Luke 1:26-38, “In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.”

Gabriel stands before the presence of God, seeing the infinite God. In infinite joy. He receives the message God is sending. With great joy and peace in serving God, perhaps the angel steps through a door, and onto Earth. Or perhaps, Gabriel lifts up his wings and flies through the heavenly realms, through outer space, and into the atmosphere of Earth, and fights off demons, to come down to a little city where Mary lives.

He gives his message… with great, and exaltation for God. A great hope is brought to Mary. But it’s not going to be easy for her. But, through her, will come this little baby. And why does that matter so much? Because this baby is of God. God, born into the world. What a concept! Jesus Christ, a little baby. God, in the form of a child. Truly astonishing, isn’t it?