Today: Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Angels: God's messengers    (4/6/2008 1)

“Would Mr Hanson please go to the stationmaster's office!” The disembodied voice echoed over Bristol station. That was me! What had happened?

I was on my way to meet my girlfriend, but now the railway had a message for me—terse, clear, but desperately vague. All it said was that I should not come, and she wouldn't be able to meet me. Why not? Why the change of plan? Was this the end—had she ditched me? Had there been an accident?

It was many agonizing hours later that I discovered she had developed chicken-pox and gone into isolation, though not before a hasty journey to the station (no mobile phones in those days!), face covered with scarf, to leave the stark message—she hadn't dared say more!

Cryptic or clear, sometimes unexpected and confusing messages can arrive out of the blue; they may disturb, disorientate or reassure us.

Down the centuries, many such messages have, on occasions, come by angelic messenger: some like disembodied voices from the sky, sometimes by seemingly human agents, sometimes by unworldly creatures.

Sometimes it's the messenger that's significant. When Moses was confronted by a voice speaking from a flaming bush in the desert, he needed to know it was actually God giving him a new direction for his life. This angel-figure was the go-between, the representative of God.

But more often the important thing has not been the messenger; in my own case, I never knew the voice over the tannoy—what mattered was the message . The voice from the bush confronted Moses with his biggest-ever challenge, a job description of epic dimensions with massive political implications and dangers that would be with him for the rest of his life. You would need an angel messenger at least , as well as all the confirmation you could get, to be sure you were on the right track to face a challenge like that!

Centuries later, the birth of Jesus was surrounded by angel messengers: preparing his mother Mary, reassuring Joseph, warning the couple to flee to Egypt . And above the fields of Bethlehem a great choir of angels singing praise to God and promising peace on earth, and directing shepherds to a stable.

At the end of Jesus' life there were angels at his grave, with the astonishing message “He is not here, he has been raised, just as he said!”

Angels with messages seem to be linked particularly with great moments in history—at least, that's when they get noticed! But there are many more accounts both in the Bible and in Christian history of angelic figures bringing messages, instructions, guidance and reassurance. Perhaps because they might seem scary, or because their messages are startling, one of their most frequent phrases is, “Don't be afraid!” And in one case the message goes on, “I bring you good news of great joy!”

We may never meet an angel, and we might not realise it if we did. But God delivers messages by many means: through the Bible, through prayer, through unexpected and unconventional channels, and sometimes through angels. Our job is to listen, to check things out to be sure we've got the right end of the stick, and then to respond. When God speaks, however he does so, it's worth listening.

Prayer: Lord, when you speak, help me to listen. Give me sensitive hearing and a willing obedience. And help me to hear what you have already said, so that words given through angels, prophets and teachers, especially those recorded in the Bible, may not be wasted on me today. Amen.

Think about: Angels are not the whole story, but they are agents of the story. They are God's employees, if you like - but they're not the boss! Read our Church on the Net article about angels and think about whether you can accept the idea that angels may be real.

Challenge: It's a big leap - but can you believe in angels? If you're thinking ethereal, feminine figures or chubby cherubs, think again - that's not how they are prtrayed in the Bible at all! Read the truth about angels in the Bible, selected for you at the angel festival website.

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