One cannot tell the Christmas story without including angels. Who has seen a Christmas play that has not included one or more adorable children dressed in white robes with sparkling wings and a halo over their head?
The angels of heaven filled some significant roles in the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. We see their involvement at the pronouncement to Mary (Luke 1:26), the assurance to Joseph (Matt. 1:20), the prediction of John’s birth to Zechariah (Luke 1:11) and, of course, the angel appearing to the shepherds the night of Christ’s birth (Luke 2:9). But have you ever wondered what the angels thought about as they participated and witnessed the incarnation?
The angels’ perspective
We might be tempted to think angels have such a unique view that their perspective is much clearer than ours. But according to I Peter 1:12 the angelic host may not have as clear an understanding on God’s redemptive work as we might expect. Peter writes that the prophets foretold the gospel of Christ and longed to see its fulfillment. At the end of verse 12 he describes the angels’ perspective as “things into which angels long to look” (ESV).
The words “long to look” give us a clue on the perspective angels might have on God’s redemptive plan. According to biblical scholar W. E. Vine, the word translated “long” speaks of an earnest desire which “stresses the inward impulse rather than the object desired.” Likewise, the words “to look” mean straining one’s neck to see or look intently at something.
From this short phrase we gather that the angels have a longing to better understand the gospel of Jesus Christ. With this in mind, join me for a journey into our imaginations as we ponder what one angel’s thoughts and feelings might have been as the heavenly host witnessed the incarnation.
This is it! This is the night! The one they will call Jesus, the Christ, Immanuel is entering humanity. How long I have waited for this moment. It is time for us to pierce the veil and proclaim, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Oh, those poor sheppards. Did I ever surprise them! Their eyes grew larger and larger as the night sky lit up with the heavenly host. What awe and wonder were on their faces.
I admit I was a bit surprised at their shock. I guess maybe for them it was strange to be given a glimpse of what takes place on this side all the time. This celebration in choirs, this singing of the heavenly host continuously fills the air around the throne. But for them it was quite a special event.
This night is actually a special event for me too. This has never happened before—God becoming man—nor will it happen again.
As the shepherds left their flocks, they seemed so animated, so excited, each one talking at the same time about what they had just seen. Though they could no longer see me, I could still watch them. They were so eager to discover if the things I told them were true or not. They could not get to Bethlehem quickly enough.
Oh Bethlehem, that small little village, what a privilege has been given you tonight! I wonder, are you capable of understanding what this night truly means? Can humanity grasp the significance of the incarnation, this demonstration of love, this humbling of the Most High?
I should not be so hard on these who have been made lower than us angels. The reality of the matter is I have difficulty understanding this plan of redemption for humanity. Maybe this comes from the fact that I cannot begin to understand what it would be like to live in a broken relationship with our Creator. Oh, the love of God for these jars of clay is such a mystery to me. It is so amazing to witness, yet in a way I feel like an outsider looking in.
From the moment of my creation, I have known this night would come and that this plan was part of God’s purpose even before he created this world. I have also known what part I would play in this amazing story. The holy Scripture says, “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91:11-12 ESV)
When the Spirit of God inspired these words, the psalmist did not perceive that the focus of our care would actually be the one born this night. So, I have my charge which begins in earnest this very moment. I will minister to and protect this one, the Son, Jesus, Immanuel! I will fulfill my duties perfectly. There shall be no harm come to this one under my watch. Nothing will happen to him until that day. O yes, until that day.
Humanity, humanity! Do you know? Do you have the slightest idea what he is doing for you? On that day, not unlike this night, the heavenly host will be gathered and all of us will be focused upon the events on earth. It will be a gathering that even exceeds this special night.
But unlike tonight, I will not pierce the veil and make great declarations or sing out praise to men. We all will be charged with the most difficult command ever given us. We will stand back and watch as humanity kills our Lord, their Savior! How can he allow them to do that?
But praise and glory be to the eternal Father, for death shall not win! The Son will break forth in glorious resurrection. This is the very thing he is born this night to do. He will remove the sting of death and pay the price for men’s transgressions. Then he will rise victorious over the grave and provide salvation for all who would come to the Son and trust in him.
I know these things must be fulfilled. I know them as sure as I see these events unfold before my eyes. Yet I fail to completely comprehend this act and demonstration of love. Oh, how I long to look into these things with better understanding.
We do not actually know what the angels thought or felt the night of Christ’s birth. It does stir within me a greater awe and gratitude for this familiar story to think that even the angels have difficulty understanding the riches of God’s love and grace for us. May we too “long to look” and with wisdom and knowledge better understand the depth and riches of God’s great grace, love and gift of his son, Jesus Christ.
Tim Sandy has served as lead pastor at Corn (Oklahoma) MB Church since 2006. He has also served churches in Colorado and Texas. He is a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Tennessee Temple University and Eastern New Mexico University. He and his wife, Carol, have been married for 37 years and have four adult children and nine grandchildren.