Angels and Songs
As we begin the Advent season, images of this season flood our minds as we reflect on the stories and the memories of Advent and Christmases past. One image that pops into my mind is that of God’s heavenly messengers, more commonly known as angels. Each year an angel tops our Christmas tree and several heavenly heralds adorn the lower branches too. We have a chorus of three angels that adorn our front door during the Christmas season. As we read the birth narratives of John the Baptist and Jesus in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, we notice that angels appear often sharing the good news of the promised births of both messianic forerunner John and Messiah Jesus. The angel Gabriel appears to Zechariah in the temple sanctuary, to Mary at her home in Nazareth, and presumably to Joseph in his dream in Nazareth. An angel joined by an angelic host appears to the shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem on the night of Messiah Jesus’ birth. An angel warns both Joseph and the Magi in a dream about King Herod’s murderous intentions for the newborn Savior. Angels are key characters in the Christmas story because God wants the world to know that his Son is born who will redeem his people and all creation from sin’s curse.
Another image (or more accurately a sound) that floods my mind are the songs of the Advent and Christmas season. Music has always been a key component of my
Christmas celebration as it has been for most of our families and for the Christian church for the past two millennia. As soon as we celebrate Thanksgiving, the Christmas music comes out in force on our mobile devices, radios, and CD players (although admittedly we do sometimes sneak it in earlier because our radio stations break out the Christmas music so early). I always listen to Handel’s Messiah at the beginning of the Advent season and have fond memories of singing Handel’s masterpiece in Calvin College’s Oratorio Society for several years. I also enjoy listening to both classic and popular Christmas music throughout the Christmas season. Our children have school Christmas concerts. We often take in another Christmas concert too. As we look particularly at Luke’s gospel, we notice that the birth narratives of John and Jesus include several songs that the church has sung ever since. Mary sings her Magnificat when she visits her relative Elizabeth and is greeted by John’s leap of joy for Jesus in the womb. Zechariah sings a song of praise after his voice returns following John’s birth and circumcision. The angelic choir sings Gloria in excelsis Deo to praise God on the night of Savior Jesus’ birth. Songs are so fitting during the Christmas season because we can never praise the Lord enough for the indescribable gift of his Son.
Because angels and songs are important components of the Christmas story, I am combining them into an Advent series entitled “Angels and Songs.” We will reflect together on key texts from Luke’s gospel that focus on the angels and songs of the biblical narrative of Jesus Christ’s birth. Here is the schedule for that series:
November 29 AM – “Angels and Songs: Intruding on the Mundane (Zechariah’s Angel)” – Luke 1:5-25
December 6 AM – “Angels and Songs: Overshadowing (Mary’s Angel)” – Luke 1:26-38
December 13 AM – “Angels and Songs: Singing with Mary” – Luke 1:39-56
December 20 AM – “Angels and Songs: A Light Has Come (Zechariah’s Song)” – Luke 1:57-80
December 25 AM – “Angels and Songs: A Savior Is Born (Angels’ Song)” – Luke 2:8-20
As we focus on this Advent and Christmas series, may we be struck anew by the angels’ message of good news because of the birth of the promised Savior. May our hearts be moved to join the angels, Mary, and Zechariah in singing to the Lord with deeper, heartfelt praise for the gift of his incarnate Son for us.
“Saints and angels join in praising God the Father, Spirit, Son, evermore their voices raising to the eternal Three in One: come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ the newborn King!” (from “Angels from the Realms of Glory”)