WE ARE LIVING in a moment of ruptured imagination brought on by the growing specter of deadly violence, which has triggered in many a crisis of faith. But these lectionary readings say to Christians, “Wait a minute, not so fast!” A promise-bearing deliverer has come to topple competing kingdoms and bring distress to wielders of death. Matthew’s message is, “Keep awake.” And the prayerful petitions of the psalms outline the marks of righteous governance: defending the poor, giving deliverance to the needy, and crushing the oppressor (Psalm 72:4).
Salvation comes in the form of a child and angels act as divine emissaries—quieting fear in one instance and stirring up disquiet in the hearts of others (Matthew 2). Were it not for an angel allaying Joseph’s fear about Jesus’ atypical paternity, life as a teenage single parent would have been Mary’s lot. Had an angel not appeared to Joseph in a dream urging him to flee to Egypt, or had a dream not disrupted the course of the Magi warning them to not return to Herod, the scriptural record would have unfolded very differently.
The promise of coming joy and peace reveals much more than incarnational presence. Jesus’ coming brings to our expectant minds the essential nature of a God who wields love and salvation. God always provides a way to secure such provisions. Angelic envoys, as Matthew narrates, stand ready to do God’s bidding.