"He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John" Revelation 1:1
The revelation or unveiling of Jesus was made known to the apostle John through an angelic visitation. I wonder how often angels are used as a medium for the message of Christ?
At this time of year in the Christmas season angels play a prominent part in the story of the coming Messiah. The word angel literally means a messenger. They bring the message of good news.
In Luke 1, Gabriel is sent to tell Mary that she is pregnant with the Anointed One. Luke 1:26 tells us that "Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be."
The giving of good news does not always sit comfortably with the messenger or the one receiving the message. It is not easy to pass on life changing, unexpected and surprising news. I can imagine the courts of heaven with the angels saying to one another "so who is going to tell her?" The name Gabriel means God is my strength. Did Gabriel get the assignment because he had God's strength to do it? He was earlier sent to announce the birth of John the Baptist to Zechariah, so he had the work experience!
Painting: Host of angels, Mike Moyers
After Mary heard from Gabriel we see in Matthew 1:20 that Joseph gets an angelic communication.
"after he had considered this (the news about the pregnancy), an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit."
This news was hard for Mary to hear, it was also a shock for Joseph. Angels were dispatched to pave the way. I wonder if angels are used on a regular basis for communicating good news to people who would find it hard to believe or struggle with the consequences?
There is a profound reference to this in Matthew 18:10 which says "See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven." Little ones according to Matthew 18:6 is "those who believe in me." It looks like angels are assigned to believers and I would assume this includes the preparation phase, getting people ready to hear and receive the message. I assume the opposite is true, there are powers of darkness working against the reception of the message.
Psalm 103:20 refers to angels as the “mighty ones” who do God’s bidding and we know that God is "not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9) There is also a reference in Hebrews 1:14 which notes that angels are “ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation.” Jesus said in Luke 15:10 says there is "rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
In our western secular culture we are not switched on to the realm and activity of angels, it would be seen as a bit New Age. Yet the bible is clear, angels are messengers, preparing the ground and directing people's heart to receive life changing news.
How open are we to angelic activity? If Mary and Jospeh had angelic encounters could we expect the same? How would our prayer life change if we expected angels to be assigned to potential new believers among our friends and family?
At Christmas time the shops are full of songs about shepherds and angels, perhaps this is a good time to expect angels as messengers to be at work in the life of those we are praying for? Perhaps we could tune into the spirit realm and be more aware of the assignments of heaven?
Next time we are in the supermarket and hear "Hark the herald angels" let's smile and be thankful for the activity of angels with us, partnering with the good news.