Posted in 2021 Advent devotions

The heavenly host

“The Road to Bethlehem” Advent devotion for December 16, 2021. Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash

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.

Posted in advent, Advent devotions, Devotions

2020 Advent devotion: A multitude of the heavenly host

Photo by Gabriel on Unsplash

“Live and in person” Advent devotion for December 23, 2020. Read Luke 2:10-14 and Psalm 9.

And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 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 2:12-14)

When Isaiah had his vision of the Lord in his throne room, there were angels flying around, praising him. When John has his visions in Revelation, there are myriads of angels around the throne, praising the Lamb (Rev. 5:11,12). After Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, angels were there to minister to him (Mark 1:12). When the mob came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, he told them he could easily summon twelve legions of angels to help him (Matthew 26:53). In fact, there was one there in the garden to strengthen him through his agonizing prayers (Luke 22:43). So it makes perfect sense for angels to show up when Mary gives birth to her firstborn in Bethlehem and laid him in a manger. Of course they were there. The angels are part of Jesus’ entourage or security detail. They might not always be in sight. But that night they were, and their praise was in high gear!

I wonder what these angels thought of this event. Suddenly, they’re assigned to an infant. Their praises are not heard in a sold-out concert hall, but by a few shepherds out in the Bethlehem hills. Even in this humble setting, he is still the Lord and worthy of their praise.

The angels next big assignment would be at the tomb where the stone has been rolled away and a few friends of Jesus discover that he has been raised from the dead. That’s right, they pretty much only show up for Christmas and Easter! But they always come with big news: the Savior has come and the Savior is back!

Every once in a while, people catch a glimpse of an angel or hear their voice. Their stories are always powerful. They are ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation (Hebrews 1:14). The angels are never that far away. But that reminds us that our Lord is never far away, either!

We hear the Christmas angels,
The great glad tidings tell.
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel.

Thank you, Lord, for the angels, who lead us in praising you for your birth, your resurrection and your return. Amen.

Posted in Advent devotions

The Cast of Advent: December 23 – a multitude of the heavenly host

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)

What a sight and what a sound that must have been! Though many think of the heavenly host as a musical ensemble, they are actually the angel armies of God. This is the same group who was there at creation, who Jacob saw ascending to and descending from heaven, who surrounded the enemy armies at Samaria. They are the same forces Jesus could have summoned to fight for him in Gethsemane.

Here, after the shepherds have heard the angelic announcement of the birth of the Savior, they do what angels do. They praise God. They proclaim peace. They announce that God is not angry but pleased with his people because of Christ who has reconciled us with him.

One angel would be enough to make my day. A multitude? That would be overwhelming! I guess I’ll be overwhelmed one day when I see them in heaven, too many to be counted.

I think it’s interesting that wherever our Lord shows up, he’s got an entourage of angels with him. Sometimes you see them. Sometimes you don’t.

I’ll never get to be an angel. But I can praise him, too.

Thank you, Lord, for all those who praised you then and praise you now. Amen.