By Asst Ps Patrick Chan Yin
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah (or Christ), the Lord. (Luke 2:8-11).
Based on Luke’s account, it was probably the angel Gabriel who spoke those words to the shepherds of the Christmas story (cf. Luke 1:19; 1:26). Gabriel means "God’s hero" or "the Mighty One" in Hebrew. God sent his angel on at least three occasions to make the profound announcement to the world that the long-awaited Messiah had come. Jesus, the Messiah, the Lord, had entered the world and was the fulfilment of the prophet's messages to the nation of lsrael. What must it have been like to see Gabriel, a mighty angel, God’s hero!
St. Thomas Aquinas once explained, "Angels mean messengers and ministers. Their function is to execute the plan of divine providence, even in earthly things."
God wanted the world to know that the gift of his Son was "good news that will cause great joy." Christmas is about that message. We have a Messiah – “He is Christ, the Lord!” The word Messiah means "anointed one." In Jewish thought, the Messiah would be a king or political leader that would restore the nation of lsrael to the power, peace and prosperity of King David's era. Maybe that is why the angel appeared to shepherds rather than the leaders of lsrael.
Christians would come to realize that Jesus came, not to be the political savior of a nation, but a spiritual savior for the world. That is what Gabriel meant when he said, "a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah (or Christ), the Lord:"
People still confuse the message of Christmas today. Many want Jesus to save them from their sicknesses, financial burdens, or family problems. Jesus can do all those things, and often does. But the "good news that will cause great joy" is the provision for the eternal salvation of our souls. That is the ultimate meaning of Gabriel's pronouncement.
Christmas has come to mean many things to our modern society today. The media portrays the importance of holidays, parties, gifts and the story of Santa. The news tell us where to go to get the latest rebate, about the money spent at the malls or about the latest promotion on our online shopping platforms. The message of Christmas is confused because of what people "expect” of the season. But one of the last things Jesus said to his disciples was, "Go and be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). We have been given the knowledge of the ultimate meaning of Christmas and the call to speak that message about Jesus to those around us. No human being can ever become an angel – but we can share the same message.
What Gabriel said that first Christmas is also our message today "a Savior has been born; he is the Messiah, (or Christ) the Lord." May we be "God's heroes" today!