Sunday, November 29, 2009

Be an Angel for Advent

It’s just not me!

I guess it’s the wings that wind me up!

They look just a little bit too like fairies … and I don’t believe in fairies!

So I don’t have much time for angels.

And maybe that’s a pity!

After all … they have nothing to do with fairies, and not much to do with wings either for that matter!

And someone’s asked the question … and today seemed a good day to offer a response!

After all, today is Advent Sunday, and in the Christmas story angels figure large. Not least in the newly released film Nativity!

He's quite some Gabriel!

But who was the Gabriel who announced the wonderful Good news of the coming of Jesus to Mary? Nicky, one of our church members reads the story. Click here to listen to Mary at Home!

In the Greek world the word angellos was used simply for the messenger, the ambassador in human affairs, who speaks and acts in the place of the one who has sent him.” Dictionary of NT Theology Vol 1 page 101 Article by H Bietenhard

In the Old Testament there are two contrasting views of angels

  1. there are angels who are heavenly beings, members of the LORD’s court, who serve and praise him (Job 1:6, Isa 6:2) – sometimes they are called holy ones, strong ones, heroes, sons of God, heavenly beings. They were in at creation, they mediate revelation
  2. and then there are the destroying angels, the destroyer, the ministers of death
  3. the cherubim are special kinds of angels who show traits of both men and animals, and the seraphim who are the ones who do have 6 wings! Maybe that’s where the wings come from.

Not so common in the older books, they are spoken of more and more in the later books of the Old Testament, and in Judaism just before the time of Christ they are spoken of a lot.

They create in the mind’s eye a sense of the awesome majesty and wonder of God. They are always less than God. They are always linked to the Revelation and the wonder of God.

All of those ideas are carried over into the New Testament.

Half a dozen times angels are simply ordinary people carrying a message from someone. For the most part they have that heavenly sense and carry a message from God.

Always they are an expression of God, an outflowing of God, where angels are spoken of God is not far away – think this is really something special coming from God.

As Christmas approaches and we read those Christmas stories in Luke’s gospel we are not to be drawn to the angels – the angels in those stories draw us always to God and to Christ. Mary hears the words of the angel – and she knows what is happening is of God. The shepherds see the heavenly host – the whole mass of heavenly beings – and the whole point is that the message is of God and points towards Christ.

Think angels and then immediately be drawn closer and closer to God.

Three things about angels I want to take away with me …

First, Angels bring the message of Christmas from God. We are called to carry that message into our world. What we want to do this year is to take Christmas into the world and see what a difference it will make. Do take a bundle of cards – and take the message into the world around the church! Take to heart the angels’ song, take to heart the angel’s message – and be an angel – take the message out into the world you live in.

Second, on our pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Joanne Moston, our Roman Catholic guide, started each day as soon as everyone was on the bus with a prayer to the Guardian Angels to look after us on our travels. That’s not me! But at Highbury I inherited a custom from Clifford Small – on every church coach trip since the first one I took in Clifford’s company I have always prayed a prayer of blessing at the start of our journey and at its close.

It became comical on our Ecumenical Pilgrimage as Joanne would say her prayer to the Guardian Angels and hand the microphone to me for me to say my good, Protestant prayer in Jesus’ name seeking a blessing on our journeying. And we had a double blessing each day!!

But Matthew 18:10 has that wonderful thought that once I had no time for, but now have more time for … Jesus is talking about taking great care of little children. “Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven.” What a wonderful thought – each of us has in heaven an angel looking out for us – a guardian angel. A touching thought. But the point of that is actually not to direct us to the guardian angels in heaven. But it makes us think differently about each and every little child, and for that matter each and ever individual we encounter – we should always remember that they each have their angels looking out for them, looking in the face of God. That means we must care for each with an extra special care.

That thought is then finally developed in Hebrews chapter 13 – Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.

If you are fascinated by angels – don’t get too engrossed. Look through the angels to the glory of God in Jesus Christ. But this verse suggests that we need to show kindness and give help and offer hospitality to complete strangers – for we may well be entertaining angels unawares. That’s a wonderful thought.

Be an angel and take the message of Christmas into the world.

Remember everyone has angels looking out for them so respect and honour each person, not least those littlest ones.

And finally help strangers and entertain angels unawares.

Earlier in our service Graham Ledger had introduced us to Street Pastors, to be launched in Cheltenham on Saturdya, 5th December. He had shown us a video of the work of Street Pastors. To see that video click here: Street Pastors take to the streets. To learn more about the launch of Street Pastors in Cheltenham click on the picture below.

Graham and co had the vision for Street Pastors in Cheltenham.

It was a vision needing to be owned by the churches.

And so the church leaders group that meets regularly was given a presentation by a friend who recently moved to Stonehouse from Watford. In Watford the vision had been to help people on the streets in the night time … and in the day time as well.

They had an initiative. Just the same.

But with a different name.

They called their initiative. Angels.

That’s the heart of our Street Pastor Scheme.

Not so much in taking the message of Christ and of God – that’s not what it’s about.

Rather – each of those people on the streets has their angels looking into the face of God and need our honour and respect.

And as Christians our task is to help the stranger – for in doing that we may well be entertaining angels unawares.

It is not so much that the Street Pastors are the Angels – rather that the person in need may well be the angel the Street Pastor meets, and everyone of those people whose needs they seek to help has their angels looking out for them and so is infinitely precious in the sight of God.

No comments:

So much to pass on at Highbury

If you give a little love you can get a little love of your own

A blessing shared at Highbury

Now and the Future at Highbury

Dreaming Dreams Sharing Visions at Highbury

Dreaming Dreams Sharing Visions

Darkness into Light