How many angels sing in the Bible? None.
You protest, "Angels sang to the shepherds at the birth of Jesus. There's even a song about it, 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing.'"
The carol was originally penned by John Wesley and was changed to its current reading by George Whitefield, sometime in the mid-1700s. This is how Luke 2:13 actually reads: "Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying " They praised God. They spoke. They did not sing.
In the Bible, whenever angels appear, people are frightened. To meet an angel was a terrifying moment. That's why the first words of an angel are often, "Fear not." We're even told the shepherds were "sore afraid." When I was little, I thought that meant they were so scared, they were sore from shaking so hard. I'm still not sure what it means to be "sore afraid," but I think it's not good.
We're not given a good description of an angel's physical appearance. Other heavenly beings, seraphim and cherubim, are described. According to Biblical clues, angels seem to look like people, but with an overpowering aura. To meet an angel must be like meeting a WWF bulked-up wrestler in a dark alley. It would be exciting if you weren't scared for your life.
The word "angel" means "messenger." God used angels from time to time to deliver a message to people. Usually, the message was along the lines of, "God is about to do something amazing, and you are a part of it." However, they were not delivering singing telegrams. Nowhere in the Bible are we told that an angel sings his message. He tells it.
I always had this picture of a 10,000-voice choir booming out in unison, "Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, good will to men." An impressive sound and scene but not what happened.
Have you ever been to a USC football game and heard 40,000 voices yell, "Game -" and hear the roar of 40,000 voices yell from the other side of the stadium, "- cocks!" Or have you been to Clemson and heard 80,000 strong spell "T-I-G-E-R-S!" Or have you been to Florida Field and heard the call and response of 82,000, "Orange! Blue!"
That night in fields, as shepherds watched over their flocks, it was less like a choir and more like a football game. Tens of thousands of angels were yelling with heavenly lung capacity, "GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST! ON EARTH, PEACE, GOODWILL TOWARDS MEN!" That many voices, screaming a cheer for the birth of the Savior, for the beginning of God's redemption plan, for the new hope that was entering the world; that many voices would make your hairs stand straight up on their goosebumps. No wonder the shepherds were sore afraid.
More than a football game, Christmas is a time for cheering. The Good News of Great Joy is God has entered the world. The Messiah is born. Salvation is coming. A new era is beginning. Evil is in retreat. God is going to win.
Be filled with good cheer this Christmas - the cheering of angels. Our God is winning.
Clay Smith is the lead pastor at Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter.
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