And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:13-14)
Suddenly, the road to Bethlehem is crowded. In an instant, the shepherds and the angels are joined by the heavenly host, the army of God. Just as they have always surrounded the Lord’s throne with their praises (Isaiah 6, Revelation 5), so they are now stationed at a different kind of throne, a manger in Bethlehem.
We’ve caught glimpses of them before. Jacob saw them going up and down the stairs to heaven. They escorted the prophet Elijah to heaven. Another prophet, Elisha saw them surrounding an enemy army.
Later, they would minister to Jesus after his temptation in the wilderness. They would be on standby when Jesus was arrested in Gethsemane. A few would remain at the tomb to let the women know that he had risen, just as he said.
The presence of the angels on the road to Bethlehem are a sure sign that the Lord is near, the Lord has come, and God is with us.
The psalmist tells us that the Lord is enthroned on the praises of his people (Psalm 22:3). Wherever God’s people gather to pray, praise and give thanks, the heavenly host will be nearby, too. They are surrounding us with protection. They are on standby, just in case we stumble and need them. In Holy Communion, where an altar in the sanctuary becomes his throne, they join in our praises. Suddenly, church is very crowded as “With angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify his glorious name, saying, ‘Holy, holy, holy!'”
What the shepherds saw with their eyes that night, we see by faith, firmly believing our Lord’s promise to be with us. What the shepherds saw that night, we will also see one day when we join a great multitude that no one can number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, praising God around his heavenly throne.
I praise you Lord, accompanied by the heavenly host, knowing that you are near. Give me a 20/20 faith, as I anticipate seeing you with my eyes one day. Amen.