I know Christmas sermons aren’t always the easiest to write. In fact, holiday sermons in general can be a bit tougher to come up with than most.
So pastor, here’s my Christmas gift to you.
This is a sermon I preached that is part serial ghorbaghe of a larger Christmas sermon series. It’s a great message to start the season.
For those of you who have been following me and implementing all of the sermon strategies I’ve discussed, look closely at my sermon to see how I implement those strategies.
Be sure to leave me a comment below. You can just say”thanks” or “good job” or anything you want. I’d love to hear from you.
It’s Time for Christmas:
What Does the Bible Teach About Angels?
The majority of Americans believe in the existence of angels.
In 2008, TIME Magazine referenced a study by Baylor University that discovered more than 50% of Americans believe they have actively and directly been helped by a guardian angel in their life.
Now people have many wide-ranging beliefs about angels. These beliefs range from NOT believing in angels at all to believing angels are under every rock and around every corner.
Some people believe that when we die we become an angel. So we say things like,
“Wow. That person really suffered a lot before they died. But now they have their angel wings.”
Angels have become part of our culture.
This time of the year the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life runs on TV a lot. One line in that movie has become famous. Do you know it?
“Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”
This diversity of beliefs about angels isn’t all that unusual.
Even in Biblical times different religious groups held different beliefs about angels. For instance, the two most influential Jewish groups during Jesus’ day had opposing views:
The Pharisees believed deeply in angels and the supernatural. They had strong beliefs about life after death.
The Sadducees, on the other hand, thought it was all nonsense. They didn’t believe in heaven, hell, or life after death. And they certainly did not believe in the existence of angelic beings.
So We Bring lots of Questions to This Topic of Angels
Do angels really exist? If they do exist, what’s their purpose exactly? Are we each assigned a guardian angel? What does the Bible teach us about angelic beings? What does the Bible say that can give us clarity on this topic of angels?
Well, both the Old and New Testaments mention the presence of angels in our world. We don’t get very far into the Bible before we stumble across an angel.
We meet an angel in the first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis. Genesis 3 mentions a cherubim (another name for an angel) with a flaming sword that guarded the tree of life.
Or how about Numbers 22? There an angel opposes Balaam because as the NIV describes it, Balaam’s “path was a reckless one.”
As we read through the Scripture we hear about the angel who encourages Gideon or the one who speaks to Zechariah about his son, John.
Of course the last book of the Bible, Revelation, mentions angels throughout.
Today we begin a new series called, “It’s Time For Christmas.” According to the Biblical account, angels were very active in the events of Christmas.
Finding out what the Bible says about angels seems like a natural place to start a Christmas series!
What we want to do is jump into several passages today. We want to get an overview of the Bible’s teaching on this subject.
We Want to Find Out:
What are angels exactly? And,
What is their purpose? What do they do?
The Bible tells ANGELS ARE MESSENGERS OF THE HEAVENLY WORLD.
Angels are representatives of the heavenly realm.
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for angels is malekim. It means, “sent ones.” The New Testament uses the Greek word angelos which means, “messenger.”
Angels are heavenly ambassadors. They represent God who sends them.
Countries have ambassadors.
Our president has sent ambassadors to other countries. He’s sent ambassadors to Japan, to China and to many other countries. The American ambassador speaks for the president of the United States. They only speak what the president wants them to speak.
When angels speak in the Bible, they only speak what God wants them to say.
Some passages get a bit confusing because we’re not sure if it is describing the angel talking or God talking. But that’s the point! The angel only speaks what God wants them to say. The ANGEL’S words are just repeating GOD’S words.
We see this in Exodus 3 when an angel confronts Moses in a burning bush.
Moses is traveling in the desert. He sees a bush that is on fire but isn’t being consumed. Verse 2 begins to describe the encounter:
There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight-why the bush does not burn up.” 4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am” (NIV).
Is the angel talking or God talking? It mentions an angel in the flames but Moses hears the voice of God.
The point is IF and WHEN an angel speaks, he only speaks what God tells him to say. The angel’s words are not his own words. They are God’s words.
Angels are God’s ambassadors. They are messengers of the heavenly world.
But what do they do?
What is the purpose of angels?
Who role do they serve?
The Bible Tells Us Angels Have Several Roles
First, angels are heavenly worship leaders. They lead others in the worship of God. Angels always draw attention TO God and AWAY from themselves.
The Bible mentions the existence of thousands of angels. But of all these angels mentioned in the Bible, we know the name of TWO.
Gabriel and Michael.
Out of the thousands of angels, the Bible only gives us the name of two.
That tells me THE CLOSER WE GET TO GOD, THE LESS OUR PERSONAL REFERENCE MATTERS.
Angels stand in the presence of God. In essence they say, “Don’t look at us, look at God.”
In the book of Isaiah, the prophet had a vision of God. He saw God’s throne room. He saw God in his majesty and glory.
Seraphs (another word for angels) gathered above the throne. These angels weren’t leading the worship of themselves. They were leading the worship of God.
Isaiah 6:1 begins, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory” (NIV).
The angels live in the very presence of God. But notice what they do.
This passage describes them with six wings.
2 Wings to fly
2 Wings to Cover their face
2 Wings to cover their themselves
They said, “Even though we’re angels, we cover our face in God’s presence because we don’t deserve look at the face of God! He’s holier than we are.”
They said, “Even though we’re angels, we cover ourselves because we don’t deserve to be seen in his presence. Worship is about God, not about us.”
WE DO NOT WORSHIP ANGELS.
WE WORSHIP GOD, AND GOD ONLY.
In Colossians 2 Paul warns us about people who give too much status to angels. He says, “Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you”(NIV).
WE DO NOT WORSHIP ANGELS.
WE WORSHIP GOD, AND GOD ONLY.
Angels serve as our heavenly worship leaders.
They point us to God, not to themselves.
Angels have another important purpose. Angels engage in spiritual warfare.
The Bible does not give us much detail here. And the details it does give it’s difficult to know exactly what they mean.
But from what we can glean from the scriptures, angels protect believers from attacks of the evil one.
Daniel 10 gives us some insight here. An angel explains what happened the moment Daniel prayed for God’s help.
Verse 11 describes Daniel’s encounter with this angel.
(The Angel) said, “Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling. 12 Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 13 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. 14 Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come” (NIV).
Daniel asked for understanding of God’s plan for His people. The Lord hears this prayer and immediately sends an angel to give Daniel the answer he’s looking for.
Well, apparently the powers of evil have the ability to delay the requests that even God intends to answer.
God sends an angel to deliver the answer. But the prince of Persia (some sort of demonic agent over that realm) confronts this angel for three weeks! So this angel is delayed in reaching Daniel for 21 days because of a spiritual battle taking place in the heavens.
Finally, another angel, Michael, comes to the aid of the angel trying to reach Daniel. Michael’s help opens up the door for the angel to reach Daniel with God’s answer to his prayer.
Of course, God could snap his fingers and remove ANY demonic resistance that stands in his way or in the way of his angels.
But it seems God give demons free-will to resist him. In the same way, God gives humans free-will to resist him.
For a season.
Although we still have many questions, this passage shows us that one important purpose of angels is to engage in spiritual warfare.
Another Role Angels Play is to Help Make God’s HEAVENLY Plans An EARTHLY Reality.
That’s another purpose these divine agents hold. Angels help to put God’s plans into action here on earth.
Angels try to make God’s plans a REALITY.
Ever wonder if every person has a guardian angel assigned to them? I think some of might need 3 or 4!
The Bible doesn’t give a lot of direct info related to this specific question. But Jesus does make one curious statement about this.
In Matthew 10 he talks about how angels protect the “little ones.” Now some people think “little ones” refers to children. No doubt God’s angels protect children. But it is more likely Jesus is here referring to new Christians. He refers to people who are new in their faith as “little ones.”
Jesus says DON’T DO ANYTHING that could discourage a new Christian. Don’t look down on them if they do silly things.
Don’t make fun of them if they ask something about the Bible that you learned 40 years ago. Don’t say, “I can’t believe you don’t know that verse! I learned that when I was 6 years old!”
Don’t berate them by saying, “How could you not know this?”
Jesus says, “Treat new believers with great respect. Encourage them. Pray for them. They’re just now learning how to walk with God. Don’t ever trip them up. Don’t ever discourage them.”
In that context Jesus says in Matthew 10, “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven” (NIV).
Jesus seems to indicate that God has assigned angels to every new believer. Perhaps these angels help them grow in their new-found obedience to God. Or maybe these angels help them stay close to God in the early stages of their spiritual development. These angels could protect them from spiritual attack.
Another verse related to this is Psalm 34:7.
“The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them” (NIV).
Whether every Christian has a guardian angel or not, we can’t say. But we know that God watches over and protects every believer.
And we know that, at least during vital times in our spiritual journey – especially as a new Christian – God designates special angelic protection and guidance over us.
God’s angels make His HEAVENLY plans an EARTHLY reality.
The Bible Draws Our Attention to One Last Purpose of Angels.
It’s this: Angels played (or will play) a key role in the four major events of Jesus’ life.
In the New Testament, the primary role of angels is to support and facilitate the work of Jesus.
The four most significant events of Jesus’ life:
(1) His Birth
(2) His Temptation
(3) His Resurrection
(4) His Return
In each of these instances the Bible tells us the angels were involved in the plot.
An angel comes to Mary, “This child conceived in you is of the Holy Spirit!”
Then an angel appears to Joseph. “Joseph, Mary didn’t cheat on you. This child is of the Holy Spirit. She’s going to have a son. You are to name him Jesus.”
Angels announced Jesus’ birth to shepherds.
An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and tells him to take Jesus and Mary to Egypt because King Herod wants to kill the child.
After Jesus resisted Satan’s attacks, the Bible tells us angels “came and attended him.”
On the third day the angel of the Lord descended from heaven. He rolled back the stone and sat upon it.
The guards were so afraid of the angel they couldn’t even move!
When ladies came to the tomb an angel told them that Jesus had risen!
Jesus say in Mark 4:38 “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels” (NIV).
Luke 12:8 “I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God” (NIV).
These angels are active in the four major events of Jesus’ life. More than anything else, angels support and facilitate the ministry of Jesus in the world.
So that’s who the angelic beings are. They are God’s heavenly messengers. They carry out and support God’s work in our world.
They point us to God, never to themselves. Often, the engage in spiritual battles and do spiritual work that we may never see. But they are instrumental in what Christ is doing in our lives and families and communities and world.
This Christmas season, take a moment to thank God for the work of angels in your life. Just because you’ve never seen one, doesn’t mean they don’t exist.