Mary and Joseph. The Three Wise Men. The shepherds.
We can only imagine the feelings of anticipation and curiosity these individuals felt as they awaited Jesus’ birth. But we cannot fathom the anticipation and curiosity that was experienced by the angels in heaven, or the “heavenly hosts,” the moment their King was born on earth.
While we don’t know a lot about angels, we do know that angels play an active role throughout Scripture and come in different forms that fulfill the various roles God designed for them.
Most of the earthly individuals invited to witness the birth of Jesus were approached by an angel, except for the Three Wise Men. God used a star to get their attention and guide them to Jesus after He was born (Matthew 2:2, 9-10). God gave spiritual discernment to these men that this was no ordinary star. In addition, they relied upon their Old Testament knowledge, which prophesied that a star would lead them to the Messiah in Bethlehem (Numbers 24:17).
The angels were uniquely chosen by God to speak to Zechariah, Joseph, Mary and the shepherds. I wonder if the angels were excited to have been part of such a historical day in God’s timeline? They may not even have understood the significance of their visit or what it all meant for humanity.
Gabriel, one in a “multitude of angels,” had the privilege of being seen and heard at least twice within the story of Jesus’ birth. The first is when he communicated to Zechariah (Luke 1:10-25) about his wife Elizabeth’s future pregnancy, and, the second reference to Gabriel is when he told Mary she was the chosen mother of the promised Messiah.
Did the other unnamed angels in Scripture who visited Joseph (Matthew 1:20, Matthew 2:13,19) and the shepherds (Luke 2:9-10) know the significance of their visits? Or did they simply do as they were told?
The Bible reveals that angels can’t be seen unless God chooses to reveal them to us (Numbers 22:31, 2 Kings 6:17) nor can angels communicate with us unless God tells them to (Daniel 15:16).
Angels have different full-time roles: Some are fighters and warriors, others are messengers and still others are worshippers. Angels are neither omnipresent (in all places) or omniscient (all knowing). So, I wonder if the angels talked among themselves about fellow angels who visited the family of Jesus. Was the birth of Jesus supernaturally known by all angels, or were these glad tidings only for designated angels and God Himself?
When the angels visited the shepherds in Luke 2:13-14, there was a multitude of them:
“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!'”
Other scriptural passages reveal that there are “thousands upon thousands” of angels (Psalm 68:17, Deuteronomy 33:2, Revelation 5:11-12). I imagine a shining chorus of thousands upon thousands of angels, filling the night sky and praising God with their message of authority and joy. This multitude of angels was chosen by God to be seen and heard by modest shepherds.
Though humble, Jesus’ birth had all of heaven’s eyes watching and on earth, this celestial celebration was viewed by mere men. What a spectacle; what a night!
Check out, “When Was Jesus Actually Born?“