The Presbyterian Pulpit
A sermon by the Rev. Dr. David E. Leininger


Delivered 12/24/08
Text: Luke 2:1-20

To read endnotes, click on the the note number, then click on the to return to your place in the text.

I have no idea where this story originally came from. (1) It is not mine. This is one that was told to me by someone who got it from someone who got it from someone who got it from . . . You get the idea.

The story is about Harold. Harold was an apprentice angel with great aspirations. He loved taking messages to people from God, but he was always disappointed when some big assignment came along. Whenever God needed something really important announced, the job was always given to Gabriel or Michael or Raphael or someone like that. Harold never got any of the high profile missions.

One day there was a great commotion in heaven. The rumor was going around that God was about to do something unheard of in celestial history. Instead of sending an angel to give a message to people (which had always been the case in the past), GOD was going...and going as a human being at that.

Why? God said that the announcements of angels through the centuries were all right as far as they went. But the message often did not seem to get through. With more regularity than anyone would have cared to admit, people seemed to ignore God and the divine instructions, not only for righteous living, but just GOOD living. The people on earth needed the chance to get to know God in a new way...not some far-off deity who could care less about their hopes, their dreams, their joys and sorrows, as some apparently thought. No, God wanted them to know how much they were loved and, THIS time, the message would be delivered PERSONALLY! The message would come from EMMANUEL...God with us.

How? God would become human the same way that humans become human. God would be BORN! OK. But human birth is not some sudden appearance - God would need a Mom. Who? A lovely woman of Nazareth was chosen, a devout young lady by the name of Mary whose family descended from the line of Israel's greatest king, David. She was engaged to be married to the neighborhood carpenter, Joseph, a righteous man in all his dealings, and also descended from King David's line. Miraculously, Mary would become pregnant while the couple was engaged and prior to the wedding. All right.

But wait. God, is this not awfully risky? After all, an unwed Mary suddenly "in a family way" would be a scandal. Joseph not only might have every reason to call off the engagement, but he would be entirely within his rights to have Mary stoned to death for her indiscretion. These good folks would need some preparation. Me, God, ME, wished Harold. No. As usual, Gabriel...

The big day came. Harold heard and followed the crowd to see what was going on. The heavenly host was hovering over the little town of Bethlehem looking down in total amazement. Yes, Bethlehem, not Nazareth. It seems the Emperor, Caesar Augustus, had called for a census to determine future taxes. Everyone in the nation had to appear for registration in their ancestral hometown. Since Bethlehem was the City of David, and both Mary and Joseph were descendants of David, this was where they had come. It was while they were in Bethlehem that God of all the ages would personally enter human history.

It was an amazing sight. Harold and the others looked down to see this all-powerful God lying in an animals' feeding basket...a manger...dressed only in the swaddling cloths of a newborn baby! And God was crying! This was utterly bizarre to the angels, but wonderful, too.

Harold was amazed, not only at this incredible event, but at the fact that no one in Bethlehem had any idea what was happening in their midst. The angels could see clearly that the baby Jesus was God, but the people could not. Harold thought to himself, "This is really important. Someone should tell these folks what is happening! Emmanuel!"

So Harold flew around the crowd of angels trying to find Gabriel or Michael or Raphael. When Harold found Gabriel, he pulled on his robe trying to get his attention, but Gabriel was too engrossed in watching the baby God. Harold urged Michael to give the message, but Michael kept saying, "Yeah, yeah, in a minute, in a minute," and stood with rapt attention just looking at this amazing scene. And poor Harold never was able to find Raphael amid the multitude of angels gazing down at God.

Realizing that SOMEONE had to tell this news, Harold decided to do it himself. So he went down and looked all over Bethlehem to find someone to give the message to, but everyone in Bethlehem seemed to be too busy with one thing or another. After all, the city was jammed with people because of this census thing. Hustle and bustle everywhere. A mess.

Harold flew out to the hills where he found some shepherds watching their flocks by night. Oh, NO, Harold! Not SHEPHERDS! Shepherds were the lowest of the low. Mama, don't let your kids grow up to be shepherds! Shepherds were not religious people; why, they could not make a clean repentance in the Temple since it was impossible for them to know all of the fields which their sheep had eaten from on the way to the pasture. They were scruffy looking and a little dirty and smelly. But they were people, and Harold knew that God would want them to know. Most importantly to Harold, they had time to listen to what he had to say.

Harold felt warm all over, and he began to shine with the glory of God, as angels do when they are really happy. But the light scared the shepherds, so Harold found himself having to say, "Fear not! I bring you good tidings of great joy, which will be for all the people." Well, now Harold had their attention, so he told them, "To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth - the same kind in which you wrap your own little babies - and lying in a manger."

Just then all the other angels saw Harold's light, so they rushed over to join him. And suddenly there was with Harold a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom God favors!"

Just then Harold realized that his dream had come true. He had been privileged to bring a truly great message to the people. In fact, this was the greatest message that had ever been given up to that point.

After that, so the story goes, Harold was promoted and became a fully licensed angel. And about 33 years later he was given an even bigger job, that of rolling away a certain stone and sitting in an empty tomb with some folded up grave clothes with another important announcement.

Hark, the angel Harold sings, "GLORY TO THE NEWBORN KING." Have a blessed Christmas!


1. It's most recent incarnation was posted in the PresbyNet meeting, "SERMONSHOP 1995 12 24B", Note #22 by STEVEN RP WESTON 12/19/95

The Presbyterian Pulpit Sermon Library

Mail Boxclick and send us mail