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“Seven Scenes from the Advent-Christmas Story: Angels Singing”
Luke 2:13-14


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Advent Service II—December 7, 2011

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The theme for our services during Advent this year is, “Seven Scenes from the Advent-Christmas Story,” including, “John Preaching,” “Shepherds Watching,” “Mary Praising,” “Joseph Dreaming,” “Herod Fearing,” and “Wise Men Worshipping.”  This evening we continue with “Angels Singing”: “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.’”

A frequently used plot device in science fiction is the theoretical “wormhole,” or another supposed portal between two dimensions.  On shows like Star Trek, this fictional phenomenon dramatically described as a “rift in the space-time continuum,” a “hole in the fabric of space,” a “window into another dimension.”

That’s exactly what’s happening in this evening’s Gospel Reading, and it’s not science fiction.  “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid.”  That night over 2,000 years ago in the skies above the hills around Bethlehem, a portal opened briefly between two dimensions.  For a few moments the shepherds looked through this window into the glory of heaven itself.

This phenomenon occurs in the Bible a number of times in both the Old and New Testaments.  These are known as “Shekinah” events, after the Hebrew word for the presence of God.  Jacob saw heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on a ladder into heaven.  Isaiah saw a vision of the Lord seated on his heavenly throne surrounded by the seraphim.  The heavens were opened at Jesus’ Baptism, and he shone with heavenly glory at his Transfiguration.  On the road to Damascus the Apostle Paul was temporarily blinded by the light from heaven that flashed around him.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them.”  The shepherds are experiencing a “Shekinah” event, a “hole in the fabric of space,” a “window into another dimension.”

“And they were sore afraid.  And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy.’”  The word angel means “messenger,” and that is one of the important functions of angels in the Bible.  They move between the two dimensions, bringing down to us on earth messages from God in heaven.  As the angel told John the Baptist’s father Zechariah, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.”

These angelic messengers from heaven play an important role in the Advent-Christmas story.  It begins with Gabriel appearing to Zechariah, telling him that Elizabeth will give birth to John, who will be the forerunner of the Messiah.  Gabriel appears to Mary announcing that she will miraculously conceive and give birth to the Son of God.  An angel appears to Joseph telling him to take Mary home as his wife.  An angel appears to the Wise Men to warn them not to return to evil King Herod because he is plotting to kill the Christ Child.  An angel appears to Joseph warning him of the same danger and telling him to escape to Egypt with Mary and Jesus.  And later an angel appears to tell Joseph it is safe for them to return to Israel.

The angel beautifully proclaims to the shepherds what Christmas is all about, the Good News that we are celebrating this season: “And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. . .  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.’”

The Good News of Christmas is that you are at peace with God, he is not angry with you, but shows toward you only goodwill.  Your sins are all forgiven, because Christ your Savior was born on earth, lived a perfect life in your place, died a sacrificial death to pay for your sins, and rose again from the dead.  “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”

Angels also serve the Lord in heaven by attending him and worshipping him.  Daniel says, “Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.”  John says in Revelation, “All the angels were standing around the throne . . .  They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God.”  That’s the awesome sight the shepherds experienced that night: “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God.”

One reason that we sing in church is because the book of Revelation describes in heaven the countless myriad of angels and multitude of believers singing around God’s throne.  Our worship services here on earth are like a small preview of the worship that we will one day experience, and is already happening right now in heaven.  In fact, every Christian worship service is like a small portal, opening up into heaven, a window into another dimension.  For, Jesus promised, “Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am among them.”  In Christian worship, Jesus is opening the heavens and coming down among us, through the means of his Word and Sacraments.   In Christian worship, we are connected to another dimension.  That is why our Liturgy says, “With angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify your glorious name, evermore praising you.”

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.’”  That’s what the singing is all about: here in our worship; around God’s throne in heaven; and over 2,000 years ago in the skies above the hills around Bethlehem.  Giving glory to God in the highest because of the Good News of peace on earth, goodwill toward men.

Amen.

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