The Battle Cry and Victory Song of the Army of Angels

The Battle Cry and Victory Song of the Army of Angels December 24, 2020

Do not be afraid!
“The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid!'” Pixabay / Public Domain.

 

Angels we have heard on high, an army of angels.

 

For the Christmas Mass at Night on the Nativity of the Lord: Isaiah 9:1-6, Titus 2:11-14 and Luke 2:1-14.

 

The Gospel tonight describes Christ’s birth with four phrases.

she gave birth to her firstborn son

She wrapped him in swaddling clothes

laid him in a manger

there was no room for them in the inn

This tight report tells us nothing about the feelings of Mary and Joseph.

We don’t hear if they were sad, angry, afraid or joyful.

However, what we hear tonight about the shepherds is that they were sorely afraid.

The angel of the Lord appeared to them
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were struck with great fear.

Sometimes angels brought angry or frightening messages from God.

God sometimes sent angels to kill people.

The shepherds had strong, Biblical reasons to be afraid.

But this night was to be different.

The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid”

During the events leading up to and surrounding the birth of Christ, this was the fourth time an angel found it necessary to say: Do not be afraid!

Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, met an angel who told him of the things to come.

Do not be afraid!

Mary met an angel who greatly disturbed her with the greeting: Hail, All-Filled-with-Grace!

And then the angel went on: Do not be afraid!

Joseph, Mary’s betrothed, met an angel who told him what was happening with his bride-to-be.

Do not be afraid!

Once Christ was born, it was the turn of shepherds to meet an angel.

The angel said to them,
“Do not be afraid;
for behold,
I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

Great joy is to take the place of great fear.

Zechariah, Mary, Joseph and the shepherds all heard an angel say: Do not be afraid!

Then the angel gave them God’s plan of goodness and great joy: a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.

Three titles: savior, Christ, Lord.

In the usual thinking of God’s ancient people, those titles meant that God chose, anointed and sent the newborn to lead Israel in victory over the entire world.

If he were to lead Israel to triumph, then he would need an army.

The shepherds saw and heard the army, an army of angels.

And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel,
praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Battle Cry and Victory Song of the Army of Angels!

Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.

It is the battle cry of Christ himself.

However, he did not come to take up sword and spear to lead Israel in war against Caesar Augustus.

The battle of Christ was to give highest glory to the Father, doing so in such a way that men and women would come to peace with God.

Sin is the enemy of God’s glory and of our being at peace with God.

The battleground is my heart and your hearts, our thoughts, our choices and our actions.

Are we ready for war?

The shepherds were afraid.

Zechariah was afraid.

Joseph was afraid.

Even Mary was afraid.

The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid.”

I am afraid.

I could die defeated and conquered by my own sins.

Jesus never sinned, and still he died.

That, however, is precisely how he won the victory.

The Word of the Lord in the second reading tonight says that:

our great God and savior Jesus Christ… gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good.

He was born to give himself in flesh and blood as a new and everlasting covenant so that sins may be forgiven.

Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.

The night they heard the army of angels sing the battle cry of Christ, the shepherds had been keeping the night watch.

They were standing guard against wild beasts and robbers.

If we would receive joy and victory from the Savior, Christ the Lord, then we too must keep the watch, standing guard against our own wild beasts and robbers, our own sin.

When we receive word that Christ is to be found no longer in a manger, but in a moment of prayer, in a celebration of worship, in service and charity, in the practice of justice, in turning away from sin— wherever and whenever we know that Christ is to be found, then we must go to him as the shepherds did.

As the second reading tells us:

The grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age

The grace of God once appeared as a child of flesh and blood in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

He still comes in flesh and blood under the appearances of food and drink, inviting us to join him in a new and everlasting covenant, an exchange of promises.

We have come to find him here in his flesh and blood, and to promise to carry his victory into our lives.

Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.

 

Turn. Love. Repeat.

 


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