The Angels’ Perspective of Christmas

Introduction:

Angels play a significant role in the Christmas story. We see this even in the way we celebrate Christmas and the traditions that we keep. Every Christmas pageant I have ever been to had angels and almost every Christmas carol says something about the angels. But, even with all that, have you ever stopped to consider the angels’ role in Christmas? We know that they were there when Christ was born, but have you ever thought about Christmas from the angels’ perspective?

We know that the angels were more than a little bit interested in what was going on. In fact, 1 Peter 1:12 says that they longed to look into these things to try to figure out when and how they would happen.

It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look (1 Peter 1:12, ESV)

From the very beginning they had been watching to see how God’s plan would unfold. How did they respond when the biggest part of God’s plan, Jesus, arrived? What did the angels see on that first Christmas? What was their perspective on these things? These are the questions that I would like to answer for you.

We are going to look at the Christmas story from the perspective of the angels. In order to do that, we are going to look at all the passages in the Gospels regarding the birth of Christ that mention the angels. Specifically, I want you to see 3 “things” the angels saw that first Christmas and in the process, we will also get a glimpse of Heaven’s perspective of Christmas.

I. The Angels Saw a Promise (Luke 1:5-25)

Luke 1:5-25 reveals the first “thing” the angels saw a Promise. This is significant because the entire OT could be summarized by the word promise. God has promised to save the world from the pervasive effects of sin and the first of these promises is found in Genesis 3:15,

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15, ESV)

The last of these promises is found in Malachi 4:5-6,

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (Malachi 4:5-6, ESV)

God had promised that a child would be born who would undo what Satan had done. The people would know this was happening because God would send a forerunner to prepare the way. That’s the last promise of the OT, and in Luke 1, the angels saw this promise being fulfilled:

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years. Now when he was serving as a priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.

And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and bring to you this good news. And behold you will be silent and unable to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.” (Luke 1:5-25, ESV)

A. Promise Announced

Zechariah and Elizabeth were a godly aged couple who were never able to have children. Now, God had sent an angel to tell them they were going to have a son and that this son would fulfill the promise of Malachi 4:6. The angel even quoted the prophecy, which as a priest Zechariah would have known. The angels saw it happening and God allowed them to announce it.

B. Promise Confirmed

As sure as the angels were, Zechariah doubted. As if it weren’t enough to have a messenger from God meet you in the Holy of Holies, Zechariah asked for a sign. This shocked the angel. Remember, the angels had been looking into this very promise. Plus, this wasn’t just any angel, this was Gabriel. His name means “strong one” and his job is to sit in the presence of God and do whatever God tells him to do. You might say that he serves at the pleasure of God. In spite of this, Zechariah still had doubts.
God responded to Zechariah’s doubt and, through Gabriel, He confirmed the promise by causing Zechariah to be mute. That was the sign that Gabriel was telling Zechariah the truth. God temporarily silenced Zechariah so that he could quietly watch God fulfill His promise. That is exactly what God did; that is what God always does. God always does what He says—He always keeps His promises. The angels knew that and, in this case, they also knew that God was fulfilling more than just a promise to a barren couple. This was the promise of a forerunner and it meant that the Christ was soon to follow.

 

II. The Angels Saw a Son (Luke 1:26-38)

In Luke 1:26-38 the angels saw a Son. This must have been exciting for them since they had been looking for it since God’s promise in Genesis 3:15,

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15, ESV)


The seed of the woman had come and that woman was Mary.

A. A Son of Mary

God sent the angel Gabriel again to announce to Mary that her womb would be used to fulfill the promise. As a father of three girls I think just the fact that she is having a son is miraculous. But this wasn’t just any son, this was Jesus. He would be the Son. This is an incredible announcement to Mary and it is also a reminder to us that Jesus became fully man when He was born of Mary. Elsewhere the apostle Paul describes it with these words:

Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:6-7, ESV)

Can you imagine the angels’ astonishment to see Jesus become a Son of Mary? Remember, He wasn’t just a son of Mary.

B. A Son of God

Jesus was also the Son of God. As Gabriel tells Mary, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” To be the Son of God􏰀Most High􏰀meant that He was equal to God. For example, I am the son of a Shirley. What does that make me? I am a Shirley. When the angel said that He was the Son of God, he was saying that Jesus is God. Specifically, Jesus is the second person of the Trinity. This is important because only God can give eternal life (Acts 17:25). Jesus confirms that He can give eternal life and He is God in John 10:28-36,

“I give them eternal life and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the father’s hand. I and the father are one.” The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for your blasphemy, because you, being man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—do you say of him whom the father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the son of God?’” (John 10:28-36, ESV)

As all of this was unfolding, the angel Gabriel was sent from heaven to confirm that this Son was both God and man.

C. A Son of David

This son was also a Son of David. As Gabriel put it, “And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David.” David was the greatest king in OT Israel. God promised him that one of his descendants would sit on an eternal throne as king. Now, as the angels looked on, Jesus fulfilled that promise. When the angels saw the child lying in the manger, they saw Him for who He was, the King of Heaven. As the song reminds us, “Hark the herald angels sing, ‘Glory to the newborn King.’” This was the message to Mary that night. God sent Him, not just for Mary, but also for us, so that we would know that Jesus is God. He became man and He will rule as King forever in the Age to Come.
This, however, leads to a problem. There is no one who deserves to be a part of this Kingdom. This is a perfect kingdom and no one is perfect. Worse than that, our sin—our violation of God’s perfect standard in attitude and action—deserves wrath, not entrance into God’s kingdom. Thankfully, this is not all the angels saw on Christmas.

III. The Angels Saw a Savior (Matthew 1:18-25)

In Matthew 1:18-25, the angels also saw a Savior–

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord has spoken by the prophet: “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he q called his name Jesus. (Matthew 1:18-25, ESV)

God sent an unnamed angel to Joseph to help him see that this Child was a Savior, not a curse.

A. A Savior from a Virgin

Joseph was having an especially hard time believing that Mary’s conception was a virginal conception. This can be hard for us to believe as well. From our perspective, we’ve never seen something like this: the creation of something apart from natural causes. For the angels, though, it was not hard to believe at all. Remember, they were there for most of creation (Job 38:7). They saw God create Adam apart from natural processes and now they were seeing the same thing with Jesus. Plus, the angel was sent straight from heaven to declare this. God told him to say the Child was to be born of a virgin. For the angels, this was not only possible, it was promised.

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14, ESV)

Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, born of a virgin. Why? Why did He go to these great lengths to come? He came to be a Savior.

B. A Savior from Sin

Notice what the angel says, “She will bear a son and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21) His name would be Jesus, which means YHWH saves. This name would become the only name by which a person can be saved (Acts 4:12). And notice that He saves from sin. He didn’t come to save you from poverty or hardship. He came to save you from the penalty of sin. What is the penalty of sin? Death. Physical death eventually and spiritual death eternally. Jesus came to save you from eternal death by dying Himself.

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45, ESV)

In addition to giving his life, He rose from the dead and defeated death. This is how Jesus saves from sin. Jesus in the manger only saves from sin because He became Jesus on the cross.

Conclusion:

This is what the angels had been looking for for so long. Now it was all happening. The angels saw the Promise, the Son, and the Savior. That is what they saw and what they were sent to announce. They provide us with heaven’s perspective on Christmas. The question is, How do we respond? The answer to this is given in one last Christmas passage:

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news if 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 cloths 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,
And on earth peace among those with
whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:8-14, ESV)

The angels, by example, show us how to respond to the birth of Jesus. We respond by worshipping the God of Heaven, not materialistic gratification—especially at Christmas. We respond by seeking the peace of Heaven. This is not a trite or temporary Christmas peace, although the holiday has a way of making peace. In 1914, British and German armies agreed to a Christmas truce on which they celebrated together. But the next day, they picked up arms to kill one another. This is not the kind of peace the angels are singing about. This is a peace between you and God that comes by repenting and believing in Jesus. This peace—a true Christmas peace—guarantees that God will never pick up arms against you because Christ has borne your punishment for you. That’s what Christmas is about. And it is what the angels point us to.

Complaining = Mutiny in the heart

Complaining and murmuring is the preset disposition of the natural man, and too often it becomes the preoccupation of our hearts. Thomas Watson reminds us where complaining and murmuring comes from:

Murmuring is no better than mutiny in the heart; it is a rising up against God. When the sea is rough and unquiet, it casts forth nothing but foam. When the heart is discontented, it casts forth the foam of anger, impatience, and sometimes little better than blasphemy. Murmuring is nothing else but the scum which boils off from a discontented heart. (Watson, The Art of Divine Contentment, 18)

The next time you find yourself complaining and murmuring remember, complaining is the overflow of a heart dissatisfied with God. A heart that is satisfied with God & His provision does “all things without grumbling or disputing” (Phil 2:14).

The Government Shall be upon His Shoulder

Jonathan Edwards offered this reflection of the royal rule of Jesus:

He is a king of the most unparalleled clemency and grace. Never was any kingdom ruled by a government so mild and gentle and gracious. He is exceedingly gracious in the manner of his ruling his people by sweetly and powerfully influencing their hearts by his grace: not governing them against their wills, but powerfully inclining their wills.

The baby in the manger is a Government Shouldering Sovereign!

An Overview of the Spiritual Gifts Listed in NT

The NT describes 3 different kinds of gifts that believers possess, and all three kinds of gifts are intended to function in conjunction with the word of God. Speaking gifts are for the proclamation of word, serving gifts are for implementation of word, and sign gifts were for the authentication of word.

Here is a quick overview of the different kinds of gifts and specific examples of each kind of gift. Each Christian if gifted with a unique combination of these gifts to serve a specific function in the church.

 

I. Speaking Gifts (cf. 1 Pt 4:11) 

  • Purpose: The Articulation of Word
  • Examples of Speaking Gifts:
    • Prophecy – Proclaim truth (1 Cor 12:10; Rom 12:6)
    • Wisdom – Apply truth (1 Cor 12:8)
    • Knowledge – Clarify truth (1 Cor 12:8)
    • Teaching – Impart truth (Rom 12:7)
    • Exhortation – Appeal to truth (Rom 12:8)

II. Serving Gifts (cf. 1 Peter 4:11) 

  • Purpose: The Application of Word
  • Examples of Serving Gifts:
    • Leading/Administration – lead people to accomplish a common goal. (1 Cor 12:28, Rom 12:8)
    • Serving/Helps – meet practical needs of church & others. (Rom 12:7; 1 Cor 12:28)
    • Giving – give to needs of church & others abundantly without fear or remorse. (Rom 12:8)
    • Mercy – show compassion & care for someone dealing with results of fall. (Rom 12:8)
    • Faith – see God at work even when it is hard; seen in a lack of anxiety & regular prayer. (1 Cor 12:9)
    • Discernment – distinguish between the truth of the Bible and the lies of Satan. (1 Cor 12:10) 

III. Sign Gifts (cf. Hebrews 2:3-4; 2 Cor 12:12)

  • Purpose: The Authentication of Word
  • Examples of Sign Gifts:
    • Gifts of Healings – demonstrable & public healing that anyone could verify. (1 Cor 12:9)
    • Gifts of Miracles – suspend the laws of nature to confirm God’s truth. (1 Cor 12:10)
    • Gifts of Tongues – understand or speak a new language without study. (1 Cor 12:10)

How to Use Your Spiritual Gift in the Local Church

Sermon Audio

Sermon Handout [Rom 12.3-6]

How do we use our spiritual gifts in the local church? Romans 12:3-5 reveals 3 requirements for the use of spiritual gifts in the local church.

3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 

Romans 12:3–5 (ESV)

I. The spiritual gifts require a plurality (v. 3a)

To be effective as a church we need a plurality of gifts at work. No one has every gift, but everyone has some gift. This is why a plurality is required.

A. plurality illustrated by Paul (“by grace given to me”)

The plurality of the gifts is perfectly illustrated by the apostle Paul. If Paul, who  persecuted the church (Phil 3:6) & murdered Christians (Acts 7:8) was gifted and used by God, don’t you think God can use you as well? Of course he can, and He does.

B.  plurality implied by Paul (“everyone among you”)

Paul not only illustrates the plurality of gifts in the church, he implies it. He is speaking to “everyone” about the gifts b/c every Christian has a gift. If the Spirit is at work within you, then God intends for you to be at work within the church. When you come to church you are not a consumer, God has gifted you to be a service provider.

II. The spiritual gifts require humility (v. 3b)

Just as no Christian is excluded from the gifts, no Christian is excluded from this requirement.  Humility is our responsibility.

A. responsibility of humility (δεῖ)

As Christians, humility is our responsibility, and it is the first step in mind renewal Rom 12:2). The world is pining for self-esteem, but Paul says get over yourself if you want to be useful to God. You cannot be impressed with yourself and useful to God at the same time (James 4:6).

B. reality of humility (“sober” & “according to faith”)

Humility comes through wise & sensible thinking about who we are, and who God has made us not exaggeration or deprecation. Paul’s point is that instead of measuring ourselves by others, we need to soberly evaluate if we are being faithful with the gifts and faith that God has given to us. Forget about how you compare w/ others. Humbly live your life to be faithful with what God gave you.

III. The spiritual gifts require diversity (vv. 4-5)

A healthy church will be full of people who are different than you and serve differently than you.  God has not only saved us from diverse backgrounds, but he has also given us diverse gifts.

A. functional diversity

We need a functional diversity of gifts at work in the church. We often assume that if people aren’t serving as we are serving, they aren’t serving at all.  Instead, we should assume that they are doing what we have not been gifted to do.  Don’t get irritated with people when they don’t serve like you, expect it & encourage it.  This is God’s design & we need this just as much as you need your hand & your heart to serve different functions.

B. unified diversity

At the same time, our functional diversity must be a unified diversity We may all function in diverse ways, but we must be unified by the same Lord & the same love for one another.