Advent Wonder: Angels

Advent Wonder


Author: Alan Smith Date: Sunday, December 13, 2015 Campus:

Angels – Reflecting the Gift of Light

We start today, not with the Christmas story but at almost the very beginning of mankind’s story because that’s where we first read about angels. In the beginning people were created perfect.

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Genesis 1

27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

But they were tempted to disobey God because God’s enemy persuaded them that God had withheld something good from them.

Gen 3:23-24

23 So the Lord God banished him (the first man; Adam) from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

Cherubim are angels. So mankind was expelled from the garden where food could just be picked; to work the ground – the same dirt from which they had been made – because it would only produce food through hard toil.

The first time angels are mentioned in the Bible is when they are sent to guard the way back to the garden.

Angels magnify the holiness and power of God; here they protect the Garden of Eden from sin.

Sin is what separates mankind from the presence of a holy God.

Anything which keeps you or me from being or wanting to be close physically or spiritually to God is sin.

Angels also serve and protect; in Genesis 19 when judgement fell on the cities of Sodom & Gomorrah where the people did many evil things, angels rescued Lot and his household just in time before the cities were destroyed.

 

The early church in Acts 12 & 16 recorded several occasions when angels intervened to rescue those in prison.

The prophet Isaiah hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus had a vision where he saw angels joyfully worshipping in heaven:

Isaiah 6

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of his glory.”

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

But angels’ duties on Earth are mostly in response to sin & suffering until the night of Jesus birth when they reflect his joyous light on the Earth.

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Luke 2:8-10 describes the night of joy and celebration; when the angels look into the beauty and good news of a promised salvation and the fields shone with the glory of God...

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

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13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

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What do you imagine when you hear the word ‘glory’? Have you ever been in the presence of greatness or true celebrity?

In Hebrew glory also meant weight, presence, fame, renown, majesty, splendour.

Glory is associated with God’s presence and with dazzling light.

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1 Timothy 6:16

God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.

We give glory to God by thanksgiving, worship and adoration of him.

Experiencing God’s glory can have a dramatic impact; it can make us feel too weak to stand – as if a heavy cloak has been put on our shoulders.

In the Old Testament when people experienced God’s presence smoke is often mentioned too – perhaps to shield them from the penetrating pure light of God.

Some like the shepherds in the Christmas story felt terror when experiencing God’s glory.

When Moses met with God – something else happened!

Exodus 34:29-35

29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. 32 Afterward all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the Lord had given him on Mount Sinai.

33 When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. 34 But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35 they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord.

When Moses met and spoke with God the glory of God left his face shining and it faded over time.

2 Corinthians 3:13-18

13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

 

Advent announces the coming celebration of the Saviours birth. 

Jesus God’s son has come into the world to bring deeper understanding of God’s light and the beauty of what he has done.

The vast army of angels are not the source of the light but they reflect God’s dazzling light.

Angels and shepherds are bathed in the Lord’s overflowing light and glory which overpowers the darkness.

The message once given to a few individuals is now publicly sung to shepherds by an army of angels.

They all reflect God’s light and they tell the good news, the glad tidings - the gospel.

Shepherds are the first to visit Jesus, they are bold, and they run and tell others.

The invitation of the gospel is to come to God, out of the darkness and into God’s light.

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Ephesians 5:8-11

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.

 

Darkness represents a lack of God, a lack of insight or wisdom, a lack of control over our lives and our destiny. Jesus came to show us the light and how to walk in it. God’s light brings only good.

 

John 8:12

12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

In the same way that the angels reflected God’s light and shared the good news with the shepherds, so we also can point others to God’s light:

 

 

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Matthew 5:14-16

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

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At Christmas time we can reach out to people who have not found the truth about God.

Jesus never said we need to know good Bible verses to quote to people, nor does he say we need to badger them into accepting our point of view. But Jesus example was to simply go about “doing good” (Acts 10). Not just ordinary good things but supernaturally powerful good things. And what we do will impact lives so that people will come to their own conclusion that God must exist and that he is also for them and not against them!

 

‘Good’ deeds are good not because they make us feel good about ourselves, nor because they have good consequences for those who receive them. They are good because they are the result of God’s goodness filling us enabling us to act; the overflow of goodness from God through us to others.

As we have received freely from Christ, let us give freely to others.

Do we succeed by trying harder, or practising over and over again? Focussing on what is impossible to do? Should we not focus instead on the one who has done everything required by God – that is on Jesus?

If Jesus did not do enough then spiritual success is still our responsibility and an impossible burden.

When Jesus died he uttered the words ‘it is finished’ not ‘it’s almost finished - the rest is up to you!’

 

So we can rest knowing that God sees us as perfect, healed, restored and forgiven by the work of Jesus. By believing that Jesus did enough for us we are credited with righteousness from God.

We can know God and by his Spirit in us we can please him. We can approach the one who lives in approachable light and yet not be destroyed by his glory and goodness – because he clothes us with the righteousness that belongs to his son Jesus!

This Christmas let us all think about how we can reflect God’s glory in our lives – so that what we do and say points others to God rather than to us

Questions for Union Groups:

How are you reflecting God’s glory in different areas of your life?

What opportunities do you have to be light for others and to point them to God’s light?

What aspects of Jesus life do you look at and desire to copy?

 

Youtube clips:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gwIpdABy-0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxvMkSKRWOA