In our steady march toward Christmas, four candles now burn. I did some math, and from yesterday on Sunday morning until Christmas on Sunday morning is exactly 168 hours! And I’m sure, if you’re like me, the list of things that have to happen in those 168 hours between now and Christmas might seem pretty daunting. Last minute shopping and plans, mail a few more cards to beat the deadline, clean the house…again, head to the store and stock the pantry for the few “lazy” days ahead when we may actually eat at home, attend about 16 Christmas gatherings. There’s a LOT to do between now and then! But as much as you might be tempted, don’t let the crush take your attention from the crèche… or from the angels overlooking, hovering in the night sky on the outskirts of Bethlehem.
The last candle is the angel’s candle; its purple signifies royalty—our waiting is over, the KING has come! He’s here! Angels, by definition and purpose, are messengers, and their message that night was perhaps the most important they would ever deliver: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to men on whom His favor rests.” It was a message those on earth needed so badly, a message for which the angels must have been practicing for all eternity, as God’s plans to come so close and so near had long been in place. For the first time since sin marred the garden and erected and solidified an unholy and formidable wall of separation between creature and Creator—a means of redemption had entered the scene, a Word, a Message from God wrapped in skin, a Cure for the cursed, fallen-ness and gone-wrongness of humanity. And it was lying in a manger under a star-lit Bethlehem sky. If the angels sang at creation, how much more did they sing and shout as the second Adam made his entrance on planet earth? The first Adam’s failings placed humanity under the sentence of death; the Second Adam’s unfailing obedience brought us pardon and life.
It’s impossible for us to know how much angels know. That said, I have to wonder a bit if their message could have been quite so exuberant if they fully understood the implications of God coming to earth as a baby. Did they know that in just a blink of angel-time that same holy Child lying in a manger would be laid in a tomb, having given His very lifeblood to erase our guilt and pay for the peace they proclaimed that night? Could they have sung with such abandon if they knew what his coming would cost? I don’t know. I don’t know what they knew, but I know what we do. We come together as believers this season, bathed in the lights of Christmas, but also bathed in grace and mercy and forgiveness and atonement and redemption—all gifts that came at an incredibly steep price.
We remembered Sunday as we gathered around the table, and we should remember every time we do—that the very fact that we are allowed to come to the table and share in the feast of life harkens back to that same angelic message—the table still proclaims “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth”—here, right here, right now—“…peace toward those upon whom his favor rests.” That’s us! Enjoy the feast, and each time revel in the good news. It’s reason for great joy. And great peace! But it came at a great price.