Now in that same region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for see, I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
It’s Christmas and because I’m still a couple days behind on these Jesse Tree devotionals, our passage for today lines up quite well. In it we find the story of the angel and the heavenly hosts who join the celebration. All the other characters and settings in the story are part of our material world–the people, animals, the town, the stable, and even the star. Even God himself had materialized into this world through the babe in the manger.
Then there’s the angel and the heavenly hosts, who are not part of our material world. They are celestial beings that do not possess the same metaphysical make up as us ground dwellers. They are phenomenal being that exists in multiple realms–our world and in whatever is beyond. They don’t seem to be governed by time, yet step into time at various points in Israel’s history. Our passage today represents one of those times.
Keep in mind, the shepherds didn’t know this all was going to happen, so you can only imagine their surprise when an angel suddenly stood before them. The Angel of the Lord offers the standard angelic greeting, “Do not be afraid.” He’s got some good news: the promised Messiah was born and the shepherds weren’t too far from where he was. The angel offers them a “sign.” Signs were very much a part of Judaism and the culture as a whole, so the mention of the babe wrapped in bands of cloth (or swaddling cloth, as some prefer) would have been significant to their understanding of the event that just transpired.
Then, the story gets really good. Upon announcing the gospel of Christ’s birth, there was a heavenly flash mob of sorts, filled with a multitude of heavenly host. Admittedly, I’m no angelologist, nor do we know exactly what is meant by “heavenly hosts.” What I am certain of is that it must have been a sight to behold. I imagine it was so much more than an ordinary choir of angels all standing up in the heavens in nice, neat rows. It must have filled the heavens with countless beings all engaging in worship and praise, glorifying God and singing his praises. Talk about an epic party. Finally, God sent a savior. The Light had entered the world and our Creator assembled a welcoming party like no other.