Sermon Library

Sermon Library

Wed, Dec 05, 2018

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.” 24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

When I was a child, I sang in the children’s choir at church. When I was about seven or eight years old, our choir put on a Christmas musical. As I recall, it was not an every year occurrence which made it particularly special. I was really excited so began to learn the songs and read over the different parts in hopes that I could have a prominent role.

Because of my excitement, my dad noticed that I seemed troubled when he picked me up after practice one day. He asked me how rehearsal had gone and I said, “Fine.” Then he asked me if they had given out parts.

I looked down and said, “Yes.”

Still trying to pry out of me what was wrong, my dad asked, “Which part did you get?”

I responded, “I am going to be Gabriel but I don’t want to be Gabriel.”

Dad said, “But Gabriel is a great part, Matt. He gets to tell Mary that she is going to be the mother of Jesus. He gets to go to heaven and talk to God. It’s a great part and very important.”

“Yeah,” I said, “but Gabriel is a girl.”

My dad laughed, “No Matt, Gabriel is a boy angel. There are both boy angels and girl angels and Gabriel is one of the boy angels.” Now I had never heard of or seen a picture of a boy angel, but when I learned that Gabriel was a boy angel my joy returned and I began to hum my song that went with my part. I couldn’t wait for that Christmas musical to arrive.

I would suspect that I am not the only one who has ever been a little confused about angels. Even think of the hymn Angels We Have Heard on High which we sang just a few moments ago. It was originally written in French and yet the chorus was in Latin. When it gets translated into English, we translate only the verses but leave the chorus in Lain. So we hear that angels are singing sweetly o’er the plains, yet they sing, “Gloria, in excelsis Deo.” Most of us are not even sure what that is, so we mishear the lyric into English.

Perhaps it is, “Gloria, in Aunt Chelsea’s stable,” surely a reference to the name of the donkey ridden by Mary, right?

Or it could be, “Gloria in eggshells these days, oh.” Perhaps a reference to what Mary and Joseph will be having for breakfast the morning after Jesus’ birth.
Yes, what kind of news are these angels bringing from on high? We do not know? But just in case you are wondering, “Gloria in excelsis Deo” actually translates as “Glory to God in the highest.”

It is an angel who brings word to Joseph in our scripture for this evening that he needs to change his plans about Mary. Joseph is a righteous and honorable man, trying to do the right thing. When he learns that Mary is carrying a child, he decides to dismiss her quietly. But maybe he needs to sleep on it one more night, because,

“An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

That is pretty clear. Do not be afraid. Take Mary as your wife. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus. So that is exactly what Joseph does.

I wish all our interactions with angels were as straightforward and clear. Because angels are messengers. They bring news from God to the earth. And we are desperate to hear a Word from the Lord in our world today.

And the first word they most often bring is “Do not be afraid.” That’s what the angel tells Joseph – do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. That’s what the angel Gabriel tells Mary when he shows up announcing that she will bear the son of God – “Do not be afraid.” In fact, I think that is anyone shows up unannounced in your house claiming to be angel and they do not start with “Do not be afraid,” you should probably start running away in terror.

Yes, do not be afraid. That is the word that angels bring to us from God. We are not to fear because they are announcing the coming of the Savior of the world. And when we hear that good news, we just might break into song. For it seems that at least according to the hymn writers, angels like to sing too.

Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King.”
Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.
Joy, all ye nations, rise; join the triumph of the skies;
With angelic host proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

Boy angels and girl angels; French, Latin, and English; even you and me. May we all join the song of Glory that the angels bring.

Thanks be to God.

Latest Sermons