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First Sunday After Christmas Day: “Proclaiming Divine Direction”

Isaiah 63: 7 - 9

Psalm 148

Hebrews 2: 14-17

Matthew 2: 13-15; 19-23

All four Scriptures today have one thing in common that is mentioned: angels. Angels are a big part of the Christmas story. Last Sunday, our gospel had an angel appearing to Joseph in a dream. In the gospel today, an angel appeared three more times to Joseph in a dream. Four times, it is told that an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream.

We don’t see a lot of Joseph in the gospels. In Matthew, the nativity story is centered on Joseph, and his four dreams of which he dreamed, an angel gave him directions. Joseph seemed to be quite a dreamer. In the Old Testament, Joseph the Dreamer interpreted a lot of people’s dreams but only two were recorded.

Dreams were important in the story. If Joseph had not had his dreams and obeyed his dreams, Jesus would never have lived to three years old. It was through these dreams that Joseph knew what to do and how to respond. All of his dreams gave directions to defend Jesus and survive His infancy, and it was all through the angels.

There is a song by Kenny Rogers entitled, “Don’t Fall In Love With a Dreamer” and I should say that this is a lousy advice. If Mary weren’t together with a dreamer, like Joseph, Jesus wouldn’t survive infancy. The point is, through the angels sent to Joseph, God brought a critically important divine direction to him.

Another famous singer Bob Dylan made a Christian album and in that, there was a song entitled, “When Are You Going to Wake Up”. A verse goes, “God doesn’t make promises that He doesn’t keep.” We might have big dreams, but in order to dream, we still have to be asleep. The message is that as long as we dream dreams, nothing is going to happen because we are asleep. We need to wake up and act on these dreams. This is exactly what Joseph did in all of his four dreams. After Joseph dreamed the dream and got the information from the angel, he got up, and he acted on the direction that he had. The angels were what God used to bring information to Joseph.

Not only was there an angel that spoke to Joseph, there was Gabriel who spoke to Mary and Elizabeth, an angel that spoke to Zechariah, and on Christmas night, there were those angels that spoke the word to the shepherds.

In Luke 2:9, “An angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them.” There were no flying angel; the angel was standing right there with them. The angel that came to Mary did not come from the sky, but just came to her. When the angel came to Zechariah, he was standing at the right side of the altar, not flying. In the Old and New Testament, every time we see angels, they were standing, not flying. The only time where angels were flying with wings was in the Book of Ezekiel and the Book of Revelation. The latter was reinterpreting all the prophetic word from Ezekiel, and these were symbolic books.

When angels appear to man in a narrative, not in symbolism, the angels are just standing there, talking to man. This is pointing to the Incarnation where God is not far away from us. The angels are not way up in the sky. Understand the nearness of God and this is what the Incarnation is all about. God is not way off in the heavens anymore. The Word is not way off in the heavens anymore. It is right here! In fact, when Moses was to depart from the people, he said, “This commandment, this direction, this word, which I command you today, is not too difficult for you nor is it out of reach. It is not in heaven that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it that we may hear and observe it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and to make us hear it and observe it?’ The Word is very near you – in your mouth and in your heart that you may observe it.”

God’s word and God’s direction or whatever we need from the Lord is not was far off. Jesus shows us how close we can get. He came in right in where the people were; right in where creation was; right in where the animals were in the stable. Where were the angels? In Luke 2:13, it says, “And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host...” The angel was not way off in the sky, but the angel was standing amongst the shepherds and suddenly, more angels were with them. It was a field and a multitude of angels could stand in the field with no problem. They were not far away, but right there with the shepherds.

Christ is right here with us. God is right here with us ready to impart to us whatever message He means to give us. Just how close are these angels? Just how close is the direction of God for us?

Not only am I sharing with you about angels, but to show you the nearness of God. Angel are near, not far away. God’s presence and direction are near. God’s Word is near. God’s comfort and exhortation is near. Whatever we need from Him, whatever He needs for us to have, it is not far away out of reach. It is near! The message of the child in the manger shows this is how close Jesus is to us.

In Revelation 1:20, after John sees a vision of Christ, and after Jesus said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” and He then says, “As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” Who are the angels of the churches? There can be an angel with wings assigned to every church. There are defending angels in the Bible that we don’t see but are there. Every child has a guardian angel, and they are so close to the child even if we don’t see them. Is this the kind of angel that Jesus means in this verse?

Whenever Jesus speaks to the angel of the church, he says for one, “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write…” Jesus says this to the seven churches, “To the angel of the church in….” If Jesus wanted to send a message to a celestial angel, would He use one of us to send the message too? There is a celestial dimension that we can’t enter yet. Jesus said that the seven stars in His right hand are the angels of the seven churches. Are they really the celestial kind? No, otherwise, Jesus won’t tell John to send them a message.

It is well recorded in Church history by the Church fathers and the historians that during this time, John was living in Ephesus and he was the Archbishop of all those churches of Asia. He was the bishop of the bishops. They also tell us that when we talk about the stars, the angels of the churches, we are talking about the shepherds of the Churches. At that time, it was talking about bishops. The angel of the church is talking about the church’s shepherd or bishop. He is the messenger, like the angel. The Archbishop shares the message of God to the bishops and the bishops share the word to the people.

In Revelation, this is the picture of the dimension of the angels that we can’t forget sometimes. Angels are messengers, and in the context of our lives, our bishop is our messenger to us. Just like the angel gave the message to Joseph, the angel of the church gives God’s message to his flock. Remember that angels are servants and why in the world would God say to John, “You serve the angels by giving them a message?” John would not be the one to give a message to the angels, to the servants, but John, as a servant to his fellow bishops, would certainly be in order to be a messenger to them so that they could be a messenger to the people. The bishop is a servant, just like the deacons. The messenger is a servant to the people.

I bring all of these out for one reason: to let you know that we are not forsaken by God and He is not far away from us. God loves us so much that He brought His Son to us, Emmanuel, God with us! God has placed a messenger, an angel, in every church to bring us His word and direction. The angel is to bring us comfort and all the things that a ministering spirit would bring.

God has an angel in the church of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea, or an angel of the church in Bicutan, in Novaliches, in Mindanao, and an angel in every place where God has a church. This is how close God is to us. It is not a good idea to distance ourselves from the angel of the church because we are distancing ourselves from the Lord.

The angel of the Lord is with us, just like he was with Joseph. The angel of God to our Church is somebody whom we can see. He is there for our growth and our maturity and to assist us. God is close; God is with us; God is near. His Word is near. In more ways we can imagine, there is the goodness of God and He loves us so much He provides for us. The angels are there not for our destruction but for our growth and to be able to come together, as God’s people. Together we stand as one in the proclamation of His gospel that we can know God and make Him known.

Our Liturgical Theme is “Proclaiming What is Profitable” and what I have shared is profitable, for the Church’s good to understand the nature of the angels in our midst with all the different ministries and spirits that God has put upon us. Understand the goodness of God in all of these things.

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