Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas' Angelic proclamation

Matthew 1:20-21 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Introduction: How often we find angels in the birth narratives of Jesus in the Gospels
In today's post I wanted to briefly consider the roles angels played in the birth accounts of Jesus recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  Whenever we survey the Four Gospel accounts in regards to the number of times we find angels mentioned in connection to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, here is what we discover:

1. Total times we find angel or angels in Gospels=over 50
2. Angelic mentions in birth account=19 (37%)

In other words, for the birth accounts (infancy narratives) of the Lord we find a full 37% of all the angelic mentions in the four Gospel records. 

This little exercise serves to underscore that as the Holy Spirit inspired the four Gospels, and particularly Matthew and Luke, angelic activity and ministry was heavy in the beginning stages of our Lord's incarnation and early life in comparison to His life and final week here on earth.  In today's post we want to explore what exactly the angels were proclaiming at the time of Christ's incarnation/virgin birth/early life and why that is important for Christians today.  

Angels pronounced Christ's mission
As we saw in the opening passage of today's blog in Matthew 1:20-21, the mission of Jesus' virgin birth and first coming was to save His people from their sins. The shadow of the cross ever fell on the events surrounding the cradle. Notable too is the fact that Jesus Christ came as God in human flesh. The angel Gabriel in Matthew's account served to highlight the truth to Joseph that Jesus Christ's mission was to save His people from their sins and that as God in human flesh, Christ alone was qualified to do so.

Much like we see Gabriel doing for Joseph in Matthew 1:20-23 and then Mary in Luke 1:26-38, the ability to grab hold of Christ and His mission is increased as a result of angelic assistance. Mary and Joseph were both believers in the promises of God who already were operating in dependence upon the grace of the Spirit working on and upon them. However they needed the ability to grasp the unusual and miraculous nature of what God in the Person of the Son was undertaking. Angels have been used by God to aid in both the communication of His word, its explanation, and protection of those receiving it. However this particular bit of good news required ample aid by angels. The Christmas accounts reveal to us just how zealous the angels are over the glory of Christ and the need for His people to share in that zeal.

So we see angels pronouncing Christ's main mission for coming to earth, but notice what they also pronounced in the Christmas accounts of Matthew and Luke...

Angels pronounced Christ's majesty
Luke's Gospel in particular records how the Angels served to point God's people to the majesty of the Son in the following ways:

1. Majesty of Christ's fulfillment of scripture. Luke 1:26-33
Whenever you look at these passages, three major Old Testament Covenants are alluded to that undergird every major Old Testament prophecy regarding Jesus Christ.

a. The Davidic Covenant. Luke 1:32 "throne of His father David" cf 2 Samuel 7:13-16

b. The Abrahamic Covenant. Luke 1:33 "house of Jacob forever" cf Genesis 12:1-7

c. The New Covenant. Luke 1:33 "kingdom will have no end" cf Isaiah 9:6-7; Jeremiah 31:31-34

2. Majesty of Christ's humanity in the virgin birth. Matthew 1:23; Luke 1:34-38; 2:21
When the Person of the Son, forever God in His Divine nature, chose to come to earth to take upon himself a human nature, His majesty was in no way diminished. Theologian Charles Hodge notes: "The humanity of Christ in virtue of its union with His Divine nature is immeasurably exalted in dignity and worth, and even power over all intelligent creatures."Whenever we think of the significance of the virgin birth and what the angels were proclaiming, we must think along two lines. First, the person of the Son having a sinless, fully divine nature would never unite unto His Person a tainted, sinful human nature. Yes He came to be associated with sinful human beings, however He in His humanity was sinless. The virgin birth preserved Christ's humanity from the inherited sin of Adam that is passed along in a normal physical union.

The second significance of the virgin birth has to do with Christ in his humanity fulfilling the scriptures that detail the virgin birth. (Isaiah 7:14) The angelic involvement in expressing this truth to people like Joseph, Mary, the Shepherds and to us was so that we could behold the majesty of Christ in scripture and His humanity. But notice a final point the angels communicated about Christ's majesty...

3. Majesty of Christ's Deity retained in His incarnation. Luke 2:9-14
The angelic hosts meeting of the shepherds outside of Bethlehem served to underscore the fact that the baby in the manger never ceased sharing full Deity with the Father and the Spirit. We know this by carefully reading the angel's announcement to the shepherds in Luke 2:12 "This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

When God utilized "signs" in the Bible, the sign was meant to "signify" a major reality or event or more so, God Himself showing up at that event. So the question is: what is the significance of the sign of the baby in the manger? The Angels proclaim in Luke 2:13-14 "And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” The babe in the cradle never ceased being God in the highest! That is the point of the angelic proclamation!

Today we have considered the angelic proclamation that occurred in and around the time of Jesus' birth as recorded in Matthew and Luke. We discovered two main truths the angels aimed to pronounce: Christ's mission and Christ majesty. May you dear reader have a glorious merry advent and wonderful upcoming new year!

1. Charles Hodge. Systematic Theology - Volume 2. Eerdmans. 1965. Page 397

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