When Adam and Eve were cast from the Garden of Eden, God placed an angel at the entrance of the Garden with a flaming sword to ban their re-entry. The angels are God’s army, God’s soldiers. As such, they may be agents of God’s wrath and judgment. The angel was present at Eden to enforce God’s judgment on human sin.
This explains the frightful reaction of people to the appearance of the angels in the Christmas stories. With Zechariah, Mary and the Shepherds, the first reaction to the angels is fear, even terror. It is more than mere surprise or a case of being startled. As sinful human beings, they were fearful that angels had come to bring God’s wrath.
The first words out of the mouths of the Christmas angels are therefore some of the most wonderful in all of scripture. Fear not. Fear not. Do not be afraid. I bring you tidings of great joy. The angels were not sent as agents of wrath but as emissaries of grace. God had chosen to visit us not as a Judge, but as a savior. The Christmas angels were preparing the way for his gracious coming. Christmas is a time of celebration because Jesus has turned our fear into joy.
During this advent season, we have reviewed the prophesies of Christ’s coming found in Genesis 3, and God’s grace has shined brighter and brighter with each new revelation. But now we have reached the day of fulfillment, the day the prophesies foretold, the coming of the savior at Christmas. The Christmas angels appear not with a swords of wrath but with words of good news. God’s grace shines forth in all its magnificent glory as we behold him, the baby in the manager, come to be our savior. Let us join the Christmas angels and proclaim, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests”