Can You Hear the Angels Singing?

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Take a look at the familiar Christmas story found in Luke 2:8-14.

Apparently angels are scary beings. The angel told Joseph, “Do not be afraid.” Gabriel said to Mary, “Do not be afraid.” And the angel told the shepherds, “Do not be afraid.” Put yourself in the shepherd’s place. All of a sudden, an angel appears and tells them that Jesus has been born. “And there appeared a multitude of the heavenly host praising God.” The sky was filled with more angels than you could count. They were singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

This is the way it typically happens. The key word in that text is the word suddenly. God always works in His own time and I think we wish there were more of these types of moments. Suddenly means without warning, it means quickly and unexpectedly. The angels weren’t there and all of a sudden, they were and they filled the sky. The shepherds were out in the field taking care of their flocks by night, but could the angels be seen in Bethlehem? What about in Jerusalem eight miles away? Did the angel’s praise reach across the miles? These are questions to get you to think. Of course, we don’t know the answers, but I can tell you one thing for sure: the angels filled the sky and the shepherds saw them.

Are angels real? Of course they are. 2 Ki. 6 tells the story of Elisha and his servant when the Aramean army surrounded them in the city of Dothan. Seeing the enemy on every side, the servant cried out, “What shall we do?”  Elisha responded by declaring, Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Ki. 6:16-17) The angels were always there, but the servant simply could not see them. When his eyes were opened, he saw what had been there all along. There are skeptics all around us so how should we respond to someone like that? It is a matter of faith. Just because you cannot prove something does not automatically disprove it. That was part of my journey to recognizing that God is real. There are things all around us that people take by faith, or I think a more applicable term is take for granted. How can you see the beauty of nature or the beauty of humanity and not see God? You cannot ignore the supernatural element of Jesus’ birth. Angels are a huge part of the story. An angel tells Mary she will give birth to Jesus. An angel tells Joseph not to dump Mary. That angel would then tell Joseph what was going on and that the baby would be called Jesus. An angel warns Mary and Joseph to flee to Egypt. An angel tells them when it’s safe to return to Israel. And in Lu. 2:11, an angel tells the shepherds that the Savior has been born and then the sky is filled with angels. Later, we have the mysterious star that led those far away Magi all the way to the very house where they found Jesus. And the Magi were warned in a dream not to return to Herod but to go home another way. Angels and stars and dreams. Crazy supernatural stuff throughout this story. I think these are some things we know, but really have forgotten how incredible they are. When you reduce Christmas to good feelings and family time, you miss out on this incredibleness. This story helps us solidify that there is a heavenly realm. This world is not eternal. We look forward to the day when we join God in our eternal home. This world is not our home – that’s why we’re strangers and aliens here. Our citizenship is in heaven. We are pilgrims on a journey from this world that is passing away to a world that will last forever. We are looking for a city with eternal foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

The end is coming. What we know today will be gone soon. Those things that many feel are so important will pass away. 1 Jo. 2:17 reminds us that, The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” We are here today and gone tomorrow. Jesus said, Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” (Matt. 24:35) Rev. 16:18 says, “There was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty.” That earthquake destroys all that we know. All the incredible architecture gone. The great masterpieces of the ages gone. All the earthly treasures held so dearly are gone. There is nothing we can do to save any of it including ourselves. Our salvation comes from another source. That’s why Christmas is so important. Miracles surround Christmas: the angels, the star, the dreams, the prophecies, and most of all, the virgin birth. But those miracles are just signs pointing to the greatest miracle of all. Since we get a play by play of events from Scripture, it’s only fitting that we look to the Bible to see why. Jo. 3:16 tells us that, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” Tit. 2:11 says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men.” Gal. 4:4 says, But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law.  Phil. 2:6-7, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men.” One of my favorites is found in Jo. 1:14, The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The birth of Christ is the incarnation of God. It is the unity of deity and humanity. The infinite became finite. The immortal became mortal. The Creator became the created. The omnipotent lived inside a young girl’s womb. The Almighty became helpless. The Deity was wrapped in rags. The King was born in a stable. The incarnation is essential in our faith. Without the incarnation, there can be no birth. Without a birth, there can be no sinless life. Without a sinless life, there can be no atonement for sin. Without atonement, there is no need for the crucifixion. Without the crucifixion, there can be no resurrection. Without the resurrection, there is no hope. Without hope, there is nothing.

I don’t want you to miss the main point. Having a biblical worldview is supernatural. When you take the supernatural out of Christmas, you’re left without the miraculous. You’re left without hope. You’re left in your sin. As Christians, why would we want to do that? The central point, the main thing, the primary focus, the theme, the moral of the story is all summed up in two words: “I am.” Christmas without Jesus is like a computer with no operating system. It’s like an iPod with no music. It’s like a phone that doesn’t make calls. It’s like cooking without food. It’s like Face Time with no face. Those things just don’t make sense.

Anytime we see angels in Scripture, I think they appear suddenly. Even though we might say we want God to work suddenly, I don’t think we really do. Especially when you consider how long you’ve prayed for lost family members and friends. Or when you consider that loved one that is dying. I think we often pray for more time. Right now we have some time, but who knows how long.

We have the time this moment to share the truths that the angels sang about that first Christmas. Today, we sing those same songs. Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her King! If you listen with all your heart, you can still hear them singing: “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth among those with whom he is pleased!” “Hark the herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn King! Peace on earth and mercy mild God and sinners reconciled. Joyful, all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies with the angelic host proclaim: Christ is born in Bethlehem. Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

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There’s No Comparison

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Last week Solomon said if you’re happy and you know it, then your life should surely show it. As Christians, we are cheerful not because of the ever changing circumstances of life, we’re cheerful because we know Jesus is there regardless of those circumstances. Smile because of Jesus. This morning, Solomon gives us some comparisons that really are no comparison.

Pro. 15:16-19 says, Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and turmoil with it. Better is a dish of vegetables where love is than a fattened ox served with hatred. A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute. The way of the lazy is as a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway.”

Let’s get to our first comparison. We’ve talked about people being scared of things that are not real. Halloween was just a couple of weeks ago and it’s a time where people try and scare one another. People are scared of vampires, or werewolves, or cemeteries. That’s not the kind of fear Solomon is talking about. “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and turmoil with it.” That fear of the Lord is the same reverential respect we’ve talked about before. He is talking about material possessions here. It’s better to have reverence for who God is and what He has done in the world and in your life and have little materially than it is to have a lot of stuff and no God. These things are not always mutually exclusive. Just because you have little does not mean you have little faith. Just because you have lots does not mean your favor is great with God. We must break free from the worldly mindset and importance of wealth. Of course we need money to purchase things and we need money to sow into the Kingdom of God. I assure you that God knows and understands how it works. Solomon is saying there really are more important things than money. Peter and John were walking along heading to the temple when a beggar, lame from birth, was in the way. The lame guy sees Peter and John and begins asking for money. But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!” (Acts 3:6) We need money to buy things, but would you rather have money or be able to walk? The point is that with great wealth comes great responsibility.

“Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and turmoil with it.” He’s comparing the two. Turmoil means a state of great confusion or uncertainty. Later in Proverbs Agur says, “Give me neither poverty nor riches.” (Pro. 30:8) He wants enough and the reasons are very good. If there’s too much Agur reasons that he might forget the Lord. If there’s too little, he might steal and profane the name of the Lord. It’s better to have a little and know who God is than to have great treasure with all the confusion and uncertainly that comes along with it.

Here’s another comparison. I admit this one didn’t sit too well with me until I read it carefully “Better is a dish of vegetables where love is, that a fattened ox served with hatred.” This is not a proof text to justify a vegetarian lifestyle. In the culture of the day, most meals were of a leafy nature. Meals that offered meat were mostly reserved for the very wealthy or for celebrations. As we approach Thanksgiving, I think this verse is more applicable. How many people are dreading making the trip to the in-laws or the parents or other family members because of the strife that exists there? The key words there are love and hatred. The idea behind this verse is that it’s much more pleasant to sit around eating veggies when love abounds than it is to eat wonderful, tasty, juicy meat that is served with hatred.  No matter how good the actual food is, when there is animosity, strife, anger, hatred, or any other negative emotions flying around, most people would prefer not to be around.

You’ve seen this one first hand. “A hot tempered man sirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute.” This goes hand in hand with 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” I want to remind you that if you are a genuine follower of Jesus Christ, you have received the gift of self control. Gal. 5:22-23 says, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Let’s quit making excuses for why we cannot demonstrate that which was given to us by the same Spirit that was present when God created the heavens and the earth. “A hot tempered man stirs up strife.” If you are a natural hot head, then evaluate your walk with Christ. If you are unable to maintain control when things go a bit south, ask yourself why. Do you enjoy the feeling of conviction that comes when the Spirit rebukes you? Are you unwilling to listen to someone because you’re too busy yelling? When disagreements come, do you immediately ramp up? The remedy for that hot temper is someone that is, “slow to anger.” It’s not that this guy cannot get angry, but he understands that calmness is like water on a fire. Jesus said, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matt. 5:9) I cannot understand how mature believers can have knock down drag out fights with other people. I don’t understand how people can be done with one another. One thing is certain, that’s not God’s desire.

Here’s a vivid word picture. The final principle we’ll look at today says, “The way of the lazy is as a hedge of thorns, but the path of the righteous is a highway.” Picture this in your mind. Have you ever tried to fight your way through a thorn bush? A briar patch? Have you ever walked through a patch of beggar’s lice? Cockle burs? Have you ever walked to the beach barefooted and stepped on a sand spur? That’s the picture Solomon is painting. It’s painful, it’s hard, it’s slow going. That’s the path the lazy person is on. The contrast is the path of the righteous. It’s like a freshly paved highway. It’s smooth and flat. It’s clearly marked with rest stops along the way. That doesn’t mean there won’t be breakdowns, or exits you have to take, but they are approved by God. You can only get on and off at the opportunities God provides. In reality, the road of faith is not all smooth and there can be detours, but the idea Solomon is presenting is that the way of righteousness is always better because it’s God’s path.

Solomon’s favorite writing technique is to compare the righteous to the wicked. He uses numerous terms and a wide variety of scenarios, but he always gives us the conclusion that it’s better to walk with God than without God. It’s best to eat lean with love than it is to eat high on the hog with hatred. It’s best to be slow to anger so people can see God in us. Even when there are difficulties, it’s best to stay on the path that God has prepared. Clear comparisons. Which path will you take; the righteous or the wicked?