2017 December Issue
of The Sermon Mall

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Touched By An Angel

Text: Luke 1:26-38

Many people today are fascinated with angels. For example, there is a popular TV show called Touched by an Angel. Or when I looked in the newspaper this week, I saw that there are at least two movies out right now that have to do with angels. Or if you go into a bookstore, you will find whole shelves loaded with books about angels. Many of our favorite Christmas carols have to do with angels: "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing," "Angels We Have Heard on High," and "Angels from the Realms of Glory." People wear angel pins. And we have angel ornaments hanging on our Christmas trees. So it's quite clear that angels are important to a lot of people.

And angels are important in the Bible too. In fact, the Bible refers to angels about 300 times. Here in the story that we listened to this morning, we heard how the angel Gabriel came to Mary and announced to her that she would give birth to Jesus. That same angel had visited a man named Zechariah, and had told him that his wife was going to give birth to a son, who would later become John the Baptist.

It was an angel who told the shepherds where to find the baby Jesus. And it was a whole host of angels that then filled the sky and sang about peace on earth. Angels were there on that Easter morning when the women went to the tomb. And angels were there when Jesus ascended into heaven.

But something we should notice is that the Bible doesn't spend a lot of time describing what angels look like. In fact, there is a book of the Bible in the New Testament called Hebrews that says that we sometimes meet angels, and we don't even know it. So angels don't always have wings and halos. Sometimes angels come to us, and they don't even look like what we think angels are supposed to look like.

But what the Bible does tell us about angels is that they are messengers from God. You see, the New Testament was first written in Greek. And in the Greek language, the word for "angel" is the same word for "messenger." And so angels are God's messengers. They tell us what God wants us to hear.

But a lot of the time we don't think of angels as being messengers. Instead, when we think about angels, the first thing that comes to mind are guardian angels. And there are a couple of verses in the Bible that seem to suggest that there may be some kind of guardian angels. But most of the time in the Bible, the purpose of angels is to bring people some message from God.

And just about all the time, the message that the angel brings is to tell the person about some real change that God wants them to make in their life. For instance, in the Old Testament, three angels came to Abraham when he was very old. But the angels told him that he and his wife would have a son, and that he would become the father of a great nation. And so those angels were telling Abraham about a real change that God was going to bring about in his life.

Or there is the time when the angel came to Joseph. You see, Joseph had decided to divorce Mary, if she was going to give birth to a baby that wasn't his. And so God sent an angel to Joseph to tell him to change his mind, and to keep Mary as his wife.

And in our story this morning, an angel came to Mary. And the way that the Bible tells the story, Mary was probably just an ordinary young women, maybe around 13 or 14 years old. And she was just minding her own business, sitting at home one day, when an angel came to her. And that angel told her about a major change that God had in store for her life. Because the angel told her about how God wanted her to become the mother of the Son of God.

And so angels aren't just there to guard us. They are also there to bring us messages from God. And a lot of the time, those messages are that God wants us to change. That God wants us to do something new and different with our lives.

But changing isn't something that most of us like to do. For example, shortly after President Clinton came into office, back in 1993, they took a poll. And the poll found 90% of all Americans thought that the health care system in the United States was in a state of crisis and needed to be changed. And so the government came up with some ideas about exactly what changes should be made. But when those changes were announced, all of a sudden, instead of 90% of the people being in favor of changes in the health care system, only 20% were now in favor of those changes. And what they found out is that people were interested in changing the health care system, as long as those changes didn't effect them personally. In other words, people thought it was OK for others to be effected by change, as long as that change didn't effect them.

One night a huge tanker ship was out in the Atlantic Ocean, making its way north along the coastline. All of a sudden, though, the ship's mate noticed a dim light dead ahead, and so he assumed that another ship was in their path. And so the captain got on the radio and said, "This is the Tanker Ship Excelsior. You are in our path. I order you to change your course." But a few moments later a voice replied: "No, I will not change. You change your course."

And so, as you can imagine, the captain was shocked that anyone would dare to disobey his command. But the light in the distance was now getting closer. And so he got on the radio again: "This is the captain. The Tanker Ship Excelsior is the largest ship in the whole Atlantic. All other ships yield to us. And so I order you to change your direction and get out of our path." But again the voice replied: "No, I will not change. And I recommend that you change your course."

Now, that light was getting very close, less than a mile away. And so for one last time the captain went to the radio: "This is the captain. I am giving you one final warning. Change your course." And the voice came back: "I will not change. And I really do suggest that you change your direction. Because, you see, I'm a lighthouse."

The story that we listened to this morning told about the changes that God had in store for Mary. And that story should make us think about the changes that God has in store for us. It should make us think about the new and different things that God wants us to do with our lives. And so this Christmas season, let's not be afraid to hear what the angels have to say to us. Let's not be afraid to be touched by angel.

Rev. Dr. C. Edward Bowen Vandergrift, PA