Christmas reminds us of when God broke into our world at the first Christmas. We hear again the many themes of the season as devotionals. One of those themes is the place of angels in Jesus’ coming. Let’s look at the response of different people to these heaven-sent messengers. Along the way, let’s look at what Islam says about angels.
For most of history, the majority of people could not read. The result was that God used angels to inform people of His plan. God seems to delight in communicating with the poor and under privileged. I believe these stories still speak to us today.
The first angel story, in Genesis 16, caught my attention. Hagar had fled into the desert to escape from Sarah. Pregnant with Ishmael, the father of the Arabs, the angel told her to return and submit to Sarah. To submit is the root meaning of the word Islam, the religion started by Arabs.
Muhammad claimed Gabriel met him and gave him the Qur’an. When “Gab” ordered him to read, he protested saying he could not read. Then “Gab” choked him until the words came out of his mouth. At first Muhammad thought this being was a demon. (I could understand why!) A Christian relative persuaded him otherwise. According to Islam, every person will encounter angels after death and their records of our deeds. The Qur’an generally reveals a god far from his chosen people.
We find several events involving angels at Jesus’ birth. It begins with Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. He meets an angel in the Temple and is told his wife Elizabeth and he will have a son named John. Because of their ages, his response is unbelief. He is given the sign of speechlessness until the child is named at birth.
Then, Mary, the betrothed wife of Joseph, has an angelic visitation. She learns of her coming conception without a man. Her response is faith and submission, unlike Zechariah, though she understands the possible consequences for both her and Joseph. To confirm God’s plan, an angel speaks to Joseph in a dream, giving instructions and confirming God’s plan. Joseph’s obedient response is to protect Mary and her unborn child.
Angels appeared to shepherds near Bethlehem the night Jesus was born. Their response is to find the child and worship Him that very night. On the opposite side were the foreign kings who saw the star and came seeking Him. After meeting with Herod, they find Jesus and respond with their gifts and worship. Later angels warn Joseph to flee with his family to Egypt, and later still tell him to return to Israel after Herod’s death.
Often, when we least expect it, God wants to break into our world and lives. God’s purpose is that we respond to Jesus and His love this Christmas. This holiday season, how will you respond to the Good News about Jesus?