And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths 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, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:8-14 ESV)
Have you ever noticed how people in the Christmas story tend to respond to angels when they show up? If we rewind to Luke 1:30 when the angel Gabriel visits Mary, he tells her, “do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” Here, in Luke 2, we read that these rough tough shepherds are instantly “filled with fear” at the sight of an angel and are quickly told to “fear not…” This should make us wonder why they were frightened.
Maybe viewing angels as cute, cuddly versions of cupid is completely wrong. If we scan the the scope of scripture, it appears that whenever angels showed up on the scene they were on a mission to bring a message from God; quite often to “open the can” of God’s judgement. Some type of serious destruction often followed their arrival.
Luke writes that as this angel is sharing the news of Jesus’ birth with the shepherds, that suddenly, a “multitude of the heavenly host appears.” For some reason, this multitude is often displayed as a white robed angelic choir, sometimes with song books in hand. Ironically, the word “host” gives a radically different picture— it’s translated from the Greek word stratia, and literally means a military encampment or a band of soldiers. This was not a choir of cupids but an angelic army straight from heaven. God had sent His army to announce that the Messiah had arrived and the rescue mission for humanity had begun. This army had no intention of dethroning an arrogant Caesar in Rome or removing a corrupt High Priest in Jerusalem. They weren’t about to wipe out the Roman army or restore Israel as a world power. They had arrived to announce “a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger”— an unexpected way for God’s rescue mission to begin.
Why do you think God sent an angelic army to announce the birth of Jesus?