Stump is a blogging project of Claremont Presbyterian Church
At the top of the Castel Sant’Angelo in Vatican City is a majestic statue of the mighty Archangel Michael. He stands ready with his sword outstretched, ready to strike down his demon foe. It’s a powerful image, perfect for the military fortress that the Castel Sant’Angelo is. It speaks of the might and power of the Almighty God, his angels ready to do battle in his name.
It’s hardly the image I would conjure up for an angel who would show up in a shepherd’s field after the birth of a small, innocent child. Somehow, the vengeful Michael standing guard in the Vatican doesn’t strike me with the same, bucolic warmth and fuzziness as an image of cute, round faced cherubs who look suspiciously like any of my friend’s children dressed up in sheets and tinsel halos. And yet, when we think about it, we aren’t talking about just sweet angels showing up in that field in Bethlehem that night. The heavenly host that appeared to those shepherds were indeed fierce beings, like Michael and the awe inspiring Gabriel, for this is not just a child being born. This is God revealing himself in human form to the world. No wonder the shepherds were “sore afraid”, to have that lot show up to sing, “Glory to God in the highest!” It must have been terrifying!
Angels in the Bible always serve as one of God’s most direct lines of communication with humans. It is three angels who visit Abram and tell him he’s to have a child in his old age. It is an angel who wrestles with Jacob. An angel is the one who burns Isaiah’s lips with a coal, purifying him. It was an angel that appeared to Zechariah in the temple. It is at those moments when God most wants us to see and understand him that he sends the greatest of his messengers to men. And it is never for small things, it is always for something that will change the world. What was more world-altering than that night? It is little wonder an entire host of them was needed to proclaim that the Christ, the Messiah, had come to earth.
How frightening must that night have been for the shepherds? And yet, how amazing a thing it must have been! No wonder they rushed to tell everyone of what they saw. They had been given the most amazing news of all by beings they could hardly comprehend. They were far braver than I to stand in the face of that. In the rush of the holiday season, and in the sweetness of our traditional Nativity plays, it is easy to forget just how awesome this event was in the world, of God coming amongst us. It was worthy enough of a being as fierce and powerful as Michael to proclaim, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth.”
Jennifer Wolfe is a self-confessed church history nerd and all around geek living in Monrovia, California. Formerly of both Hampton, Virginia and Milan, Missouri, she is a graduate of both UCLA and Fuller Theological Seminary and currently works at Azusa Pacific University while she attends Claremont Graduate University as a Ph.D. student. She loves to write, sing, do nerdy activities like playing RPG and table top games, cooking, and traveling.