Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Word From Pastor Mike - Angels Along the Way

  The following is Mike's sermon, given last night, at our midweek Advent Service.  The text he used was Isaiah 6:1-8 and Luke 1:11-19.

Our Advent Series is called "The Long Road to Christmas".  My topic for tonight is "Angels Along the Way."  We heard about angels in Isaiah's temple vision - 6 winged seraphim flying around the throne of God, praising God and bringing a burning coal to touch Isaiah's lips.  Then in Luke 1, an angel appears to Zechariah and tells him that he and his wife, Elizabeth, will have a son.  That son will prepare the way of the Lord; that child will be known as John the Baptist.

But apparently the real experts on angels are children.  Here are some ideas about angels from children:

Gregory, age 5... Everybody's got it all wrong.  Angels don't wear halos anymore.  I don't know why but, but scientists are working on it.

Olive, age 9... It's not easy to become an angel.  First you die.  Then you go to heaven.  Then there's still flight training school to go through.  And then you've got to agree to wear those angel clothes.

Mitchel, age 7... My guardian angel helps me with math, but he's not very good at science.

Henry, age 8... Angels don't eat but they drink milk from holy cows.

Sara, age 6... Angels live in cloud houses made by God and his son, who is a very good carpenter.

Antonio, age 9... My angel is my grandmother who died last year.  She got a big head start on helping me when she was till down here on earth.

Katelynn, age 9... Some of the angels are in charge of healing sick animals and pets.  And if they don't make the animals get better, they help the child get over it.

Vicki, age 8... What I don't get about angels is why when someone is in love they shoot arrows at them.

We probably don't think about it much when we read the Bible but angels are all over the place.  From Genesis to Revelation, you will find angels.  

Angels are in the Christmas story in Luke's gospel. Zechariah is burning incense in the temple of the Lord... ooops there's an angel, "Don't be afraid." Mary's story, the angel Gabriel comes to Nazareth, "Do not be afraid, Mary." The shepherds watch over their flocks by night. The angel proclaims, "Fear not for I bring you good news of great joy."

Angels are all over the Christmas story in Matthew's gospel. An angel tells Joseph not to divorce Mary, "She will bear a son and you shall call his name Jesus for he will save his people from their sins." An angel in a dream tells Joseph to take his wife and child to Egypt for Herod wants to destroy him. After the death of Herod, an angel in a dream tells Joseph to return to Israel.

If we move forward in the story of Jesus we find more angels. According to Luke's gospel, an angel from heaven strengthens Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. At the resurrection, an angel rolls away the stone from the tomb of Jesus. It is an angel who announces the resurrection.

Immediately after the Ascension of Christ back into heaven, two men in white robes say to the disciples, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."

These angels join us on "the long road to Christmas". What are we to do with them? Job #1 is to understand.

In the Bible the word for angel literally means "messenger".  In the Christmas story the angels cause fear - startle people. They bring announcements; they are messengers of good news. They sing praise to God.

According to the Bible the angels are a part of the heavenly count of God. They carry out God's tasks. They guide, protect and warn. They praise the goodness of God.

The idea of angels also challenges our modern-scientific-skeptical minds. Is there more than what we can see? Is there a realm of the supernatural where there is God and Jesus and angels and more?

When I was living in New Mexico a member of the congregation I served told me a story of an angel.  He worked in a nursing home as a CNA then as a nurse. On one occasion he walked into a room and noticed that the dying person in bed was looking intently at something. He asked, "What do you see?"  The person replied, "Don't you see him, sitting there in the chair? It's an angel." Hallucination or angel? I suppose it depends on your perspective or belief system.

As Christians, our call is not to obsess about angels or dismiss them. Our task is to listen to the message from these messengers: You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High.  And the Lord God will give the throne of his father, David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever and of his kingdom there will be no end."

The Angel of the Lord brings a message to shepherds in the night, "Fear not. I bring you good news of 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 then comes the Hallelujah Chorus, "Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace among those with whom he is well pleased."

These angels speak of a coming one, Jesus.  He will be great... Son of the Most High... he will have the throne of David... reign forever... a savior...Christ the Lord.

Let the message of the angels dwell deep within you.  The angels bring us soul food for the long journey to Christmas.

Finally, let me close with words from another man who believed in angels, Martin Luther. This is the evening prayer from Luther's Small Catechism. Let us pray... We thank you, our Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ your dear son, that you have graciously kept us this day and we pray that you would forgive us all our sins, where we have done wrong and graciously keep us this night. For into your hands we commend ourselves, our bodies and souls and all things. Let your  holy angels be within us so that the evil foe may have no power over us. Amen.