For years after my husband died, I would find an envelope in the mailbox during the Christmas season, containing an untraceable money order and a holiday card signed by “the young adult group of a Korean church.” It always took me by surprise, because I always forgot about the visitation from one December to the next. I have joked with friends that I must be kind to every Korean I meet, because I never know if the person is one of my anonymous benefactors.
I should be kind all the time, of course, but even Scripture gives incentive for vigilant virtue in the possibility of an angel encounter: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2). My friend Kathleen broke down on a desolate road out West. She prayed for a white knight in shining armor, and a white pickup truck (an unusual sighting in those days) came up the road and fixed her flat tire. Was it?
Angel assignments include ministering to humans: “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14). Angels comforted Jesus (Matthew 4:11). They minister to the children of God whenever God sees fit: “Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains. … And behold, an angel of the Lord … struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, ‘Get up quickly’” (Acts 12:6-7).
Angels have our backs. We forget this because we don’t normally see them operating, although some fortunates have: “When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, ‘Alas, my master! What shall we do?’ He said, ‘Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.’ So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:15-17).
Picture it—encircling infantry of the Lord, robes flowing, banners flapping, manes of horses rippling, nostrils snorting, hooves pawing the ground, spear and javelin quivering. Yet angels are gentle enough to watch over your child at sleep. “For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10).
It is important not to worship angels (Colossians 2:18): “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).
It is important not to ignore them either, because we are disadvantaged if we shrink the dimensions of our earthly calling to the measure of what the eye can see. Those who think little of angels probably think little of demons too, and that will never do, for “we … wrestle against … the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
Daniel knew this on the day when a Shining One nearly apologized for being late to his assistance: “The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia” (Daniel 10:13).
Weeks before the Salvation Army bell ringers and kettledrums set up camp at the local mall, I made my way over and asked random teenage patrons for their thoughts on Christmas. Finding little resonance with the idea of a baby born to save the world, I ended up proclaiming as much as quizzing.
“God came to rescue you,” I told a young man holding his sweetheart’s hand. He suddenly brightened: “I’m a volunteer firefighter, and one day I felt a hand on my shoulder pulling me out of the flames.” I smiled and wished them Merry Christmas and they went on their way. And a flutter of wings was almost heard.