Angels abound this time of year. Little wooden ones with wire wings beckon from the shelves of curio shops, inflatable ones preside over front lawns, and crinoline ones crown your Christmas tree.
I wonder what the real angels make of all this? Are they amused? Do they cringe?
What we know about real angels is pieced together from Scripture here and there, for angels are as self-effacing as they are ubiquitous in the human drama. When I say self-effacing, I have in mind such passages as the following where the attitude of angels is compared to that of arrogant men:
“But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.’” (Jude 1:9).
And passages like this, regarding the time the Apostle John was so shocked by the glory of an angel that he came close to worshipping him:
“Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, ‘You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God …’” (Revelation 19:10).
And the fact that angels do most of their work in the background, unseen or incognito:
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2).
“Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14)
Rather than conspicuously injecting themselves into history, they observe from the heavenly gallery and actually learn by watching:
“To me … this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles … so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:8-10).
Nevertheless, these humble angels, when called on by God to do so, can be quite a spectacular sight, as on the day when God opened the eyes of Elijah’s servant and he saw a circle of them on horseback surrounding their enemies on the mountains (2 Kings 6).
So when you see the miniature angel figurines sitting placidly on the shelf of the shop, do not be fooled. What they represent is something so awesome that if you saw one in full array it would be all you could do to stop your knees from knocking.