Isaiah 40:3-5, 9-11; Luke 2:8-20

Wouldn’t it be cool to be an angel? To take direct orders from God; to have wings to fly?

The Bible doesn’t have a special section devoted to telling us all we would like to know about angels, but there is enough to indicate that the angels have four roles:

For example, we infer that there are what we call Guardian Angels. Psalm 91:11 says, “He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.” And Daniel 6:22 has, “For Daniel’s protection, God sent his angel.”

There are a couple of verses in the OT where angels are God’s warriors, meting out His justice.
Then there are a couple of verses in the Book of Revelation that indicates some of the angels spend their days worshipping God.

But clearly the most important role of angels is to announce good news. That shouldn’t really surprise us because both the Hebrew and Greek words for ‘angel’ mean ‘messenger’ or ‘one who announces good news.’ Matthew tells us about the angel who announces the good news to Joseph. Luke gives us the threefold appearance of angels; First to Zechariah to announce the coming birth of his son, John the Baptist. Second, to Mary to announce the impending birth of her son, Jesus. And lastly, we hear of the angel choir that serenades the shepherds, “We bring good news of a great joy!”

So more than anything else, angels are God’s messengers; sent by Him to announce good news.

Good news begs to be told.

First the angels told the shepherds then “After seeing Jesus the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angels had said to them about this child.” Why? Because they were convinced that God’s Savior had come into the world they just had to tell somebody about it.

The same thing happens today. In all of our lives some angel came into our lives and either shared their faith with us or invited us to a church service. And we discovered for ourselves as did the shepherds that Jesus was not only born in Bethlehem, but could be born in our hearts as well. And that’s why we are here today worshipping Him.

We collectively as a congregation of God’s people as well as individually can consider ourselves either angels or shepherds (which you choose is up to you); to be announcers of the good news of God’s love born in Bethlehem.

The Lord knows that there are plenty of people who need to hear it much more so today than 25 years ago. Social psychologists tell us we are living in a post-Christian culture in which more and more people have little interest in matters of faith. Last year the number of Americans who do not attend a church topped 100 million.

There are plenty of people living within a 5 minute drive of this location who God wants to reach with His good news. In the 2010 census, 2,162 people lived in the 44215 zip code area. If national statistics hold true, 43% or 930 of them have yet to be reached with the good news. If we include all people living in Lafayette (5,576) and Westfield (4,172) townships (a 10 min drive from here) that number of folks waiting to hear the good news increases to 4,192.

I know that’s a large number and some of us may be thinking if we could even reach 10% of them (419) there wouldn’t be any room here to hold them all. In fact, we’d be overcrowded if we tried to stuff just 1% of those folk in here. But wouldn’t you love to have that opportunity?

But beyond all these numbers of people, there are the people we already know and love who are waiting to hear some good news.

And I am reminding us today of course, of the very Christmas message that our primary calling as Christ’s disciples is to be announcers of His good News. Both as a church collectively and individually as well.

Whether it is the church or you as an individual wishing to announce good news, I believe there is an important principle that comes into play; love people first.

Jack had been president of a large company, but when he was diagnosed with cancer they ruthlessly dumped him. He went through his insurance and then his life savings trying to beat it and had practically nothing left. A pastor went to visit him the hospital and said, ‘Jack, you speak so openly about the brief life you have left; I wonder if you’ve prepared for your life after death?’ Jack was livid with rage: ‘You blankety-blank Christians, all you want to do is talk about what is going to happen to me after I die if your God is so great, why doesn’t he do something about the problems I face right now.’ Then he ordered the pastor to leave.

A week later the pastor tried again and said, “Jack, I know I offended you and I apologize. You were right and so I want you to know that a Relator in our church is willing to sell your house and give your wife his commission. And I guarantee you that if you’ll permit us some other men and I will make the house payments until it sells. The income from your house could pay for your daughter’s college. I’ve contacted the owner of an apartment complex who is willing to offer your wife a 3 bedroom apartment plus free utilities and a $400 week salary in return for her collecting rents and supervising plumbing and electrical repairs. I want to assure you that we will do the best we can to care for your family. Jack cried like a baby. And he died a week later so wrapped up in his pain he never did respond to the pastor’s attempt to tell him about the good news. At least he experienced God’s love; even while rejecting him. But his widow and daughter were so overwhelmed by that outpouring that they began to attend the church that helped them and later became followers of Christ.

Love ‘em first; loving people where they are has a way of opening peoples’ hearts to be receptive to the good news of Christ’s love, while dispelling any prejudices they may have toward Christians.

Beginning with God’s love will for that other person will naturally lead us to take the next step.

A simple invitation given to someone to attend worship is an easy way to announce good news. I have received over a dozen leadership articles over the last few weeks from my various on-line resources reminding me as a pastor to remind you that Christmas time more than any other time of the year is the primo time to invite people to attend a worship service with you. Throughout the year about 50% of people will positively respond to your invitation but during the month of December that % ticks way up (70%).

So I am encouraging you to be an angel for someone this Christmas by coming up with the name of someone you know who would benefit by hearing some good news. And begin to pray for that person and then invite that individual to worship. And if you’ll do your best, then I’ll do mine to have a message that will point people to faith in Christ.

Beyond the simple act of inviting someone to attend worship with you, we have the privilege and honor of sharing our story of good news. How we came to faith in Christ.

We may not know the scriptures as well as Charles Swindoll. We may not be able to espouse Biblical theology like Max Lucado. We may not be able to preach like Billy Graham.  But we have something that neither Charles Swindoll, Max Lucado nor Billy Graham have. And that’s our story of good news.

People can and will argue the scriptures and theology with you all day but they cannot deny your story. Because it’s your story; it’s the good news story of what God in Christ has done for you.

Good news? The greatest news, for it tells us no matter what we have done in this life, there is forgiveness; no matter how bad things may be in this life, there is hope; no matter when, where or how we may die, there is life again!

So, be an angel won’t you?

A Denver, Colorado hospice physician was driving home from a meeting, when his car started to choke and splutter and die. He barely managed to coast into a convenience store/gas station, glad only that he would not be blocking traffic. He saw a woman about to get back in her car slip and fall on some ice. When he got to her, he could see she was sobbing, but not from the fall. She said she was driving to California and things were very hard for her right now. He noticed she had pumped just $10.00 worth of gas into an old Chevy Suburban that was crammed full of stuff including four kids. So he asked, “And you were praying?”

That made her back away a little, but he assured her he was not a crazy person and said, “He heard you, and He sent me.” He took out a credit card and swiped it through the card reader on the pump so she could fill up her tank, and while it was fueling, walked next door to a McDonald’s and bought 2 big bags of food, some gift certificates for more, and a big cup of coffee.

She gave the food to the kids in the car, who attacked it like wolves, and then they stood by the pump eating fries and talking a little. She told him her name, that she lived in Kansas City, that her boyfriend had left and she had not been able to make ends meet so in desperation finally called her parents, with whom she had not spoken in about 5 years. They lived in California and they said she could come live with them so she packed up everything she owned told the kids they were going to California for Christmas.

After her tank was full, the man gave her his gloves, a little hug and said a quick prayer with her for safety. And then came his blessing, as he was walking to his car, she said, “So . . . are you like an angel or something?” Through his tears he replied “Sweetie, at this time of year angels are really busy, so sometimes God uses regular people like us.”

Indeed; God uses regular people like you and me not quite angels . . . but getting there.