Angels are examples for us in the ways they worship and obey God. The scripture tells us that the Seraphim continually praise God for His holiness (Isaiah6: 2-3), as do the living creatures (Revelation 4:8). The book of Hebrews 12: 22-23 tells us that when we come before god in worship, we are joining a great throng of angels. Do we need to worship the angels and also believe in the extra-biblical names of angels?
One of the striking features of the Christmas story is the presence of angels. Almost every major character in the Christmas story had an encounter with an angel (Joseph, Zechariah, Mary, and the shepherds). Angels played important roles in the birth of Jesus Christ and his life. Angels appeared at the birth of Christ, after the Devil tempted Jesus, before his torture, ridicule, and crucifixion, as well as during His resurrection and later His ascension.
Angels are God’s messengers. They are powerful spiritual beings who serve God and human beings in a variety of ways (Hebrews 1:14. Unfallen angels are those who have remained holy throughout their existence and accordingly are called “holy angels”(Matthew 25:31). In the Scriptures, generally when angels are mentioned, it is the class of holy angels in view
The Origin of Angels
Though the Scripture speaks about the creation of angels, it is clear that they have not existed for all eternity (Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 148:2,5). Colossians 1:16-17 explains that all things were created in the heavens and on earth, in the visible and invisible…”
Do Angels Have Bodies?
Angels are essentially “ministering spirits,” (Hebrews 1:14) and do not have physical bodies like humans. Jesus declared that “a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.” (Luke 24:37-39) The Bible does, however, make it clear that angels can only be in one place at a time. They must have some localized presence. Angels can take on the appearance of men when the occasion demands. Examples are glaring in the Bible. One such is to “entertain angels unawares. On the other hand, their appearance is sometimes in dazzling white and blazing glory (Matthew 28:2-4).
Roles of Angels
Worship and praise: This is the main activity portrayed in heaven (Isaiah 6:1-3; Revelation 4-5).
Revealing: They serve as messengers to communicate God’s will to humankind. They helped reveal the law to Moses (Acts 7:52-53), and served as the carriers of much of the material in the book of Daniel and Revelation.
Guiding: Angels gave instructions to Joseph about the birth of Jesus (Matthew 1-2), to the women at the tomb, to Philip (Acts 8:26), and to Cornelius (Acts 10:1-8).
Providing: God has used angels to provide physical needs such as food for Hagar (Genesis 21:17-20), Elijah (1 Kings 19:6), and Christ after His temptation (Matthew 4:11).
Protecting: Keeping God’s people out of physical danger, as in the cases of Daniel and the lions, and his three friends in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3 and 6).
Delivering; Getting God’s people out of danger: Angels released the apostles from prison in Acts 5, and repeated the process for Peter in Acts 12.
Strengthening and encouraging: Angels strengthened Jesus after His temptation (Matthew 4:11), encouraged the apostles to keep preaching after releasing them from prison (Acts 5:19-20), and told Paul that everyone on his ship would survive the impending shipwreck (Acts 27:23-35).
Answering prayer: God often uses angels as His means of answering the prayers of His people (Daniel 9:20-24;10-12; Acts 12:1-17).
Caring for believers at the moment of death: In the story of Lazarus and the rich man, we read that angels carried the spirit of Lazarus to “Abraham’s bosom” when he died (Luke 16:22).
The Wise Men
One of the most fascinating parts of the Christmas story is the coming of the Magi. When the Magi or Wise Men visited the Baby Jesus, they brought gifts to present to Him. It was customary for foreign emissaries and ambassadors to bring gifts to court in order to gain the favor of royalty. This was especially true at the time of royal births. The Magi came to Jerusalem seeking the newborn king of Israel but did not find Jesus there. The Magi were directed to Bethlehem to search for Jesus there. Once they located Jesus’ birthplace, they bowed and worshipped Him, showing the kingship of Jesus, and then presented gifts to Him. Each of the three gifts represented an aspect of who Jesus is and what His mission was.
The Significance of the Three Gifts
- Gold: It is clear that they recognized Jesus as being royal, but the question is, why? The Magi had seen the star and they recognized the importance of the star in the sky as a sign of spectacular birth. The importance of the gift was that it represented the kingship of Jesus.
- Frankincense: Frankincense was a highly valued commodity and somewhat rare. The Jewish people had a common use for frankincense that was directly connected to the worship of God. In the temple, the Jews prayed before the altar of incense which was always kept burning. The substance that burnt on the altar was frankincense. When frankincense is burned, it gives a sweet-smelling white smoke. The smoke rising from the altar of incense represented the prayers of the people rising to God in heaven. The Jews only use frankincense at the altar and it was reserved for the worship of God. The Magi presenting this gift to Jesus represents the fact that He is indeed Divine.
- Myrrh: Myrrh was extremely valuable and had a number of uses. The Magi presented this gift to Jesus as a representation that He would one day die. This gift conveyed the fact that Jesus was born to die.
Virtues to be emulated in The Wise Men
- Knowledge: Knowledge alone is not sufficient to make one wise. To use knowledge wisely requires “experience” and “good judgment’. Perhaps in this case, an honest desire to find whatever would improve the violent conditions of the world, and bring change and peace to human hearts. It is remarkable that their knowledge of astrology, coupled with their knowledge of Hebrew Scriptures, led them to follow a star to Judea.
- Courage and humility: Traditionally, men do not like to ask for directions, but these men, perhaps as a political courtesy, stopped to ask King Herod in Jerusalem for more specific information about the birth of the ‘king of the Jew” This phrase troubled Herod, and he had his scholars search the writings until they found a reference to a “ruler in Israel”. Herod shared the information with them, requesting that after they found this “Baby “King’ they should return and share with him where He was.
- Ability to listen: They went to Bethlehem as directed by Herod but they listened to the angel that warned them not to return to Herod because of his intention to harm Jesus.
- Generosity: Generosity as a component of wisdom requires the right choice of the recipient. The generosity of the wise men possibly brought about the spirit of kindness and gift-giving that we now associate with the Christmas season.
- Discernment: They paid attention to that inner voice that warned them of Herod’s deceit and of something being wrong. Discernment requires virtue to be able to differentiate lies from truths.
- Taking spiritual direction: The story ends with Wise Men protecting the infant Jesus by returning home through another route and avoiding any further contact with King Herod.
The angels are sent to serve and minister to those who will inherit salvation. They were on special assignment during the birth of Jesus Christ and they delivered their message appropriately. As Christ’s disciples, are you delivering the message appropriately through your way of life, talents, and spiritual gifts? Let us use our God-given gifts to assist others.
The qualities of wisdom that the Wise Men exercised to find the “King of the Jews” can guide each one of us in our quest to find peace and healing in the world. They found Christ, worshipped, and served Him. The greatest gift that we can offer to Jesus this Christmas is our praise and worship.