Friday, December 24, 2010

Dear Grand: Why did the angels visit people as lowly as the shepherds? When angels visit, why are people always afraid?

Happy Christmas Eve! 

I hope your shopping is done and all the packages are wrapped and you are ready for a warm, relaxing holiday with family and friends. 

Before I sign off for the holidays, let me share a fun, little game we have in our family.  We have a Christmas Eve tradtion where everyone in our extended family races to tell all the others "Christmas Eve Gift."  This is serious business in our house and involves calling, emailing and texting each other at all hours of the night and day.  Uncles have been know to wake their own children at 5 am to yell "Christmas Eve gift" in their tiny, sleeping ears.  The ideas is that the winner gets to open a gift on Christmas Eve.  No amount of sneaking is off limits.  Even great grandparents can be awakened with shouts.  So, if we all make it through today, I will let you know who won the contest.  Grand pointed out that in his lifetime, he has yet to see a real gift opened by the winner.  Maybe this year!

Today, Grand answers his last question for Cameron, the first grandchild, who promised to make his question nice and hard for his Grand.  I hope you have enjoyed the generational dialogue in our family.  Merry Christmas to you and your family!!

Cameron, age 13

Dear  Grand, why did the angels visit people as lowly as the shepherds?  When angels visit, people are always afraid..what do we know about angels and their appearance?

First, what are angels? They are not glorified human beings. Hebrews 12:22-23 says that when we get to the heavenly Jerusalem we will be met by “myriads of angels” and “the spirits of righteous men”, two distinct categories. The Greek word for angel means “messenger.” The Bible references angels hundreds of times in both the Old and New Testaments. They are created beings and have not existed forever. They are spiritual beings who can, upon occasion take on human form.

And unfortunately, not all angels are good. We call these demons but let’s save that sad reality for another time.

God uses angels to carry out his purposes and especially to bring messages, hence their name. In Luke 2:8-20 you can read about the angels who visited the shepherds. Shepherding is a humble occupation that has changed little since biblical times. You can go to Israel today and still see shepherds tending their flocks. Why shepherds? G.K. Chesterton once pointed out that there are times when reality can be seem most clearly by standing on your head. God sees things very differently than we do. He is not impressed with money, power or fame. He says the last shall be first and the first last.

The shepherds were afraid because a large part of an angel’s purpose in existence is to reveal God to men. So apparently, when they are in there normal form, that exude some of the glory of God and are very intimidating creatures. The angels told the shepherds not to fear because their purpose on this occasion was not to warn of impending disaster but rather to convey great joy! And though we may have never had a face to face encounter with ours, one of the great comforts in life is knowing that we have a guardian angel assigned to watch over us. (Hebrews 1:14 when speaking of angels, "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?")

Love, Grand

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