"Sing, choirs of angels" - The Myths of Christmas #3

December 21, 2020

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Our modern Christmas songs and hymns describe a "choir of angels" that appear at the birth of Jesus, but is that how the Bible describes them? In this third episode of "The Myths of Christmas", learn a bit more about who these angels were, and why it greatly matters for your future.

Transcription

Hey friends, welcome to episode number three of The Myths of Christmas. Today’s myth: “The shepherds in the fields saw choirs of angels singing when Jesus was born.”

Well we’ve got two common Christmas carols that make us think this is true. There’s “Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation... Hark, the herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn king." Then there’s also "Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing o'er the plains."

But did the shepherds really behold the soprano alto tenor bass angelic lineup complete with a few wings each and beautiful white robes? Probably not. Though it is not clear from the scripture if they were actually singing or not, it is clear that they were speaking and giving glory to God. Luke 2 verses 13 and 14 says that "a multitude of the heavenly host" were praising God and saying "glory to God in the highest!". In modern terms, the word "host" is often used to describe a large number of something - for example, we might say: "I have a host of things to get done today." A closer look at the Greek word used in this passage is highly revealing. The word used by Luke is stratia, a word that in classical Greek denoted an army or a company of soldiers. So understanding "stratia" as a word with explicit military overtones transforms our "sweetly singing" choir in the fields of Bethlehem into a powerful angelic army robed in battle array.

And why is this significant? Well, in so many passages in the Scriptures like Isaiah 13 and Isaiah 24 and Joel 2 and again in the New Testament and Jewish literature we see this theme of a day of reckoning where Israel’s God takes a stand against unrighteousness and sin by punishing both the evil powers in the heavens and the wicked on the earth. This is called “the day of the Lord” in the Old Testament, and the writings of the New Testament call it “the day of judgment” or “the day of redemption” or sometimes just “the day”. And as the rest of the New Testament clarifies, Jesus, the Davidic Messiah, Israel’s king, is the one who God has appointed to be the judge of the living and the dead on that great day. This is why the apostles would go on to call it “the day of Christ Jesus”.

Now what does this have to do with the angels that appeared to the shepherds? Well these angelic armies are beholding the Jewish messiah, the one who the prophets and Jewish writings say will bring the armies of heaven with him to do the day of the Lord. But as they look down on their commander in chief, they look down and see him as a helpless baby whose cries are fillling the night air. Instead of arriving for the day of the Lord, they came heralding a time of longsuffering and amnesty. A window of repentance was opening, and God would put Israel’s long-awaited king on display as a suffering servant, beckoning the hearts of his people Israel and later on even the Gentiles to respond in repentance and faith before that great day of judgment. The apostle Paul would go on to write this to the Thessalonians:

“…indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.”

So back to Christmas… There’s a bigger story going on with the angels than just a signing choir. A day is coming when that baby in the manger who grew up and died and rose again will get up from God’s right hand where he’s currently waiting for the day to make his enemies his footstool. He’s going to come with those same angelic armies to punish wickedness and bring in everlasting righteousness as he sits on the throne of his father David in Jerusalem and rules over all the nations.

Well, there’s more to come, so subscribe if you haven’t, hit that like button, and share this video with your friends. God bless, see you in the next one.

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