If you don’t want to offend people’s religious tastes, talk about angels. Everybody loves angels—from your new age chiropractor to your spiritual-but-not-religious cousin. It’s nice to think about guardian angels, even if you have no other duty to God, to hope you have allies in the spiritual realm. It’s a nice idea to think that people become angels when they die. Angels are not offensive.
The hymn “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” was originally written by a unitarian, Edmund Sears. Unitarians reject the doctrine of one God in three persons. So, the message that Sears took from the announcement of Christ’s birth is the angels announcing a heavenly desire for world peace. The angels were sent to give a message that God wants us all to get along.
Jehovah’s Witnesses, too, don’t accept the Trinity, so they say that Jesus is really the Archangel Michael. The “firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15), meaning he is ever so slightly less than Jehovah God.
But angels could talk forever and it would not save one soul. Certainly they are powerful, and people cower when the meet an angel in its glory. But power alone can’t save. Angels deliver messages, but we needed more than information to be saved.
“His Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
People have a problem that is too big for us to fix. You know the symptoms of that problem—they’re broadcast on the news, they are the awkward silences at your holiday gatherings, they’re even in the rock in your chest you feel when your parents or spouse are passed away. Our problem is sin, and it’s a problem that only God’s Son can address. It had to be “God of God, light of light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father” (Nicene Creed). None other could make purification for sins.
Oh, but it’s been tried. When we’re betrayed, we long to see justice carried out. But at what point will “an eye for an eye” really be finished? When we agonize over our choices that can’t be taken back, what kind of atonement can make up for them or undo the damage? Shame and fear lay heavy on our shoulders, and we try to compensate with bravado or anger, but it will never heal the root pain.
Only the One who is the “exact imprint of God’s nature” can restore this Creation to what it truly is supposed to be. Not our ideals, but back to the Creator’s designs. What we think the world ought to be is also clouded by sin. Our hopes are aimed too low—like hoping an angel could save us.
Long ago, the prophets pointed toward this, on Christmas night, the angels announced and sang it. When He was raised from the dead, the angel comforted with the words, “He is not here; He has risen.” (Luke 24:6)
God has joined our human race, He has brought our nature into Himself. Christmas is not a celebration of the appearance of angels, it’s the revealing of the Creator becoming Creature so that He can raise us up. “He who is fleshless becomes flesh” The Immortal has put on mortality, so that at the last our “mortal bodies must put on immortality.” (1 Cor. 15:53)
Only the true Son of God has the authority to do what He does: “To all who did receive Him, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13) The Son raises us up so that we receive the status of sons of God and heirs of God’s renewed creation.
This is what God the Father is doing in Baptism: He is adopting you as His son, through His only-begotten Son. When you were baptized, God put His Name on you: The Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. It is the Name of the Lord, and it becomes your family name through faith. You still have a name from a human family, but that name is mortal; it will pass away. But the Name you receive from God will abide forever, and you abide in Him.
As sons of God through faith, we are given the privilege to eat the family table. At this Holy Supper, the Son who became flesh, gives us His flesh and blood to eat and drink, so that our flesh and blood may have life (John 6:51-58)
This December 25, a day in time, we rejoice in the eternal. Begotten of His Father from eternity, and born of the Virgin Mary, this is Jesus Christ, your Lord. Who, “having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” So also, in Him, you receive a status and a hope and a future that far surpasses all earthly expectation. Thanks be to God! Amen.