King of the angels

"Sing, choirs of angels," wrote John F. Wade in his beloved Christmas carol, "Oh Come, All Ye Faithful," "sing all ye citizens of heaven above!" With enthusiasm the world responds each Christmas, recalling the transcendent moment when angels announced the birth of Jesus Christ.

An amazing number of our most cherished Christmas hymns focus on the singular role of angels in that great moment of the earth's existence. We sing of angels bending near the earth, of heavenly hosts and choirs of angels, and of angels keeping their watch of wondering love while mortals sleep.Angels of God are commissioned messengers of God. They play an essential role as emissaries and ministrators. They helped prepare the way before His birth.

The priest Zacharias, husband of Elisabeth who could not have children, was the first to be visited. An angel appeared "standing on the right side of the altar" and told the fearful priest that his wife would bear a son to be called John, who would "make ready a people prepared for the Lord." When Zacharias wondered how that could be, the angel in rebuke said that because of his disbelief, he would not be able to speak until all had been fulfilled. (Luke 1:11-20.)

The same angel, Gabriel, six months later was sent to Mary to inform her that, although she was a virgin, she would conceive and bring forth a son, "and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David; And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end." (Luke 1: 26-38.)

Joseph, who was betrothed to Mary and troubled by her pregnancy, also was visited by an angel. "Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost." (Matt. 1:20.)

The birth of Jesus and the wondrous opening of the heavens that followed it are forever celebrated by believers.

As Luke reports, shepherds in the field watched their sheep at night, "And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. . . . 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, good will toward men." (Luke 2:8-11,13-14.)

Later, after the wise men had visited the newborn Jesus, Joseph had another message from an angel. "Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee unto Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him." (Matt. 2:13.) Joseph, Mary and the child fled by night.

After Herod died, the angel again visited Joseph in a dream, saying, "Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life." (Matt. 2:20.)

The next time the scriptures mention the relationship between Jesus and angels came after He had gone into the wilderness to fast for 40 days following His baptism. Satan then came to Him in His weakened state to tempt Him. Jesus ordered Satan away from Him, and then, wrote Matthew, "behold, angels came and ministered unto him." (Matt. 4:11.)

Then followed Jesus' ministry on earth. We're told that toward the end of His days, He went to the mount of Olives with His disciples. He was in agony, praying to His Father. "And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him." (Luke 22:43.)

Finally, an angel arrived to announce Jesus' great moment of triumph over His brutal death. " . . . the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: . . . And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay." (Matt. 28:2-3,5-6.)

The angels brought the message of Christ's arrival, they were with Him in His ministry and after His resurrection. Is it any wonder, then, that when the work of the Restoration began in our time, angels would once more bring their message of hope?

For the truth is that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rests upon the ministration of angels. An angel brought back the Book of Mormon, angels restored the gospel of salvation, they conferred priesthood powers and returned the keys of the kingdom - all the time acting under the direction of Jesus.

Each Christmas we sing of Jesus that He was "born the King of Angels." And so He is.

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