ANGELS: Glory To God by Martin Shannon
Loving & Learning From Angelic Messengers
From: All God’s Angels
While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth 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 Heaven, and on Earth, peace among those whom he favors!” (Luke 2:6–14)
It seems altogether fitting that the birth of the Good Shepherd would be announced first to those who kept their flocks by night on the hills outside Bethlehem. Because we know none of them by name, these shepherds can represent us – simple, anonymous, unsuspecting, even unexpecting. They are greeted by a single angel whose sudden appearance – accompanied by the glorious light of Heaven – is, in and of itself, too much for them to bear. This angelic encounter is quite unlike others where things seems quite ordinary and natural at first, like any other conversation between two people (if there can be such a thing as an “ordinary” angelic visitation). As fearful as one angel had made the shepherds already, this was not sufficient for the announcement that night in Judea. The birth of the Son of God called for a multitude, a myriad, a countless throng of angels. Nor was it enough to hear words alone. This occasion called for music, and only the harmonies of Heaven would suffice. Angels are messengers. They are also singers.
In a sermon on the prophet Ezekiel’s vision of Heaven, Origin depicts the angels waiting eagerly to descend to Earth with the Son of God when the Word becomes flesh. He said:
When the angels saw the Prince of the Heavenly host descending among the places of Earth, they entered by the way that he had opened, following their Lord and obeying the will of him who entrusted to their guardianship those who believe in him. The angels are in the service of your salvation. If he descended in a body, they have been granted to the Son of God to follow him. They say among themselves, “If he has put on mortal flesh, how can we remain doing nothing? Come, angels, let us all descend from Heaven.” That is why there was a multitude of the Heavenly host praising and glorifying God when Christ was born. Everything is filled with angels.
We usually think of this angelic choir as having been sent to announce the good news of Christ’s birth to the shepherds. But what if that was only part of their purpose? What if they were there also to accompany their Lord as he made his way into this dark world, and to be present for Jesus when he was born in the flesh? What if they came, like so many Heavenly midwives, to assist the Son of Man as he emerged from the womb of Mary into the hands of humanity? While some were singing, might others have been whispering something into the Savior’s ear – something like, “Lord, we’re here, too. We all followed you down and, so long as you are here, we will be here too, whenever you need us”?
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