Let’s break out our Christmas imaginations again this morning. Go with me to the court rooms of heaven on Christmas Day. As Mary labors to bring Jesus safely into the world nestled on a blanket in the hay, the herald angels blow the trumpet calling together the celestial hosts for a final briefing before deploying the angels on their part of “Operation Christmas Hope.”
Let’s imagine Gabriel calls the angel host to order, as Michael scans the rolls and rolls of angels making sure all the commanders are in their place. Once silence falls on the multitude of angels, Gabriel speaks:
“Merry Christmas! (Of course merry Christmas was first shouted in heaven!) This is the day we have all been waiting for. Today Jesus will be born in Bethlehem and the Father will be sending us to announce His arrival on planet earth in style! Now I want the herald angel to step forward so I can give you the message from on high. I don’t want any slip ups. I want the message delivered word for word from the throne of God to His creation.”
A herald angels steps forward and Gabriel hands him the message. The angel opens the document and begins to read it out loud for all to hear.
He reads: “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
The herald angel looks up and says, “Sir there must be a mistake.” Gabriel replies “What do you mean son?” “Are you sure the last line reads properly…it says ‘this will be a sign to you—you will find the baby wrapped in cloths and lying in manger. Sir that must be a mistake is Jesus really going to be place in the feeding troth for animals?”
Gabriel nods saying, “I know son, that is unbelievable, but that was the only place available for him. I was watching when they arrived in Bethlehem and there was no place for them in the inn—they could only find shelter in the stable.” The herald angel shakes his head, and requests permission to speak. “Sir, do they not realize who He is…do they not realize Jesus is the Son of God?” Gabriel pats him on the shoulder and says, “Not yet, son, not yet.”
Then He turns his attention to the host of angels, and announces that as soon as the herald finishes his announcement he says, “I want you to light up the night sky with the glory of God and I want you to shout at the top of your lungs ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace goodwill to men!’ Rock their world I want this to be a night the world will never forget…there will never again be a night like tonight, and do it right….glorify God with all your being.” With one voice the host of angels shouted, “Yes, sir…Glory to God in the highest!”
Gabriel was about to walk away when the herald angel inquired, “Sir, you forgot to tell me where are we going…I assume you want us to go to the Temple in Jerusalem. You want us to announce it to the high priests and all the priests worshipping in the courts of the Temple right?” Gabriel shook his head, “No, son, go to Bethlehem—look at the bottom of your orders—you are suppose to go to a band of shepherds just outside of the city keeping watch over the flocks tonight.”
Again the herald angel asks permission to speak and Gabriel nods. “Sir, I don’t want to speak out of turn and I know this high above my pay grade, but that does not make sense. I can see sending us to Rome and putting Caesar in his place and Jerusalem makes sense, but shepherds…common ordinary shepherds. Sir, why shepherds? What can they do and besides who would ever believe them?” Gabriel again pats the young angel on the shoulder and says, “Son, trust God…He always knows what He is doing. You just go follow orders, and I promise you that you will be amazed.” “Yes, sir” the angel answers and with a salute and he turns and departs in a flash of light with the entire heavenly host following behind him.
For those of us who are lovers of Christmas we have read this story over and over. I wonder if it has gotten to be old hat for us. Have we lost some of the mystery and the wonder of the story because we believe we know it so well? This week as I reflected on the impact of Christmas on the heavenly courts it struck me how they must have been just as much in shock as we were the first time we grasp the nature of this amazing story of Christmas hope.