You Can Do an Angel’s Work
December 24, 2007
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good evening! Merry Christmas!
One of the most difficult and challenging questions I’m asked at this time of year is by otherwise well-meaning folks who come up to me with smiles on their faces and say, “Are you all ready for Christmas?” I don’t know if anybody is all ready for Christmas. I always thought that the time after the last service was the time to start wrapping presents. Maybe you’re all ready; I don’t know. Are you all ready for Christmas?
You know, the good news is, whether we’re ready or not, Christmas is coming, and we are here. We are here, doing the most important thing that we can do during Christmas time, which is to praise the Lord. Amen!
I know some folks who were not ready for Christmas, but they celebrated anyway. They were the shepherds of Bethlehem. These shepherds, we’re told, were watching their sheep. They were out in a field, watching their sheep by night. They were doing their usual good job, when suddenly—that’s what the Bible says, suddenly—the Lord broke in upon them. An angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, shepherds. It’s okay. I’m bringing you good news of great joy. Unto you this night in the city of David is born a savior, Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; you shall find a little baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Gloria to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill toward everyone!” Oh, the shepherds weren’t prepared for that, but that’s what happened that night.
And what did they do? Did they say, “Oh, that was unusual; let’s go back to work”? No, they certainly did not. They said, “Let us go even unto Bethlehem and see this wondrous thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went out with haste—they ran to Bethlehem, and they found Mary and Joseph and the baby in a manger. Oh, they weren’t ready, but they got up and went, and they proclaimed the Lord. They did what the angel asked.
My friends, our title and our topic tonight is “You Can Do an Angel’s Work.” In the midst of their everyday regular job, the shepherds got up and ran with haste and did what the angels nudged them to do. So can you, and so can I. that’s my invitation to you this night. You are invited to do an angel’s work.
I first came upon that phrase in a very amazing way. There is a family in our church that has gone through a lot of challenges this past year and in the last few years. The rest of their extended family has looked to them for strength and courage and support in every way. They themselves have faced health challenges. But throughout it all they traveled and took time off work to help other members of the family who had perhaps even greater challenges. I was talking to them one evening, and as they were telling me, in a very humble sort of way what was happening to the family, I was marveling at all they seemed to do in a very natural way. And as they spoke, I found myself saying to them, “My heavens, dear friends, you are doing an angel’s work.” And indeed, they have been, and the blessing has come back to them in the form of great joy and satisfaction.
Oh, my dear friends, I invite you to listen for the angel voices, even as the shepherds did on the hill. What are the angels, the messengers of God, inviting you to do? What good work, what proclamation of the Lord, are they inviting from you? I invite you to go for it! I invite you to do an angel’s work as you leave the sanctuary tonight and in the days ahead.
How can we do an angel’s work? May I suggest two ways? Number one, by praising the Lord. That’s the first thing that the shepherds did. They praised God for all they had seen and heard, and they went to see the wonderful miracle that the angel had announced to them. They praised God. And my heart is filled with joy for you this night, because you are doing the same thing. I’m sure that you could be in any of many different places tonight, right now, but you have chosen to put the Lord first. I bless you, and I know the Lord honors you for it. You have chosen to set aside this Christmas time to praise the Lord. God bless you!
I was reading a book not long ago about Christmas, and I found something rather disturbing. The gentleman who wrote this book about Christmas had toured all over Europe and had observed Christmas celebrations in many different countries. And in one of the northern European countries he went to, he said, he was rather shocked to see almost no signs of the Christian Christmas. There weren’t many crèches or nativities or signs of the Lord to be found. There were folk images and gnomes and such, and lots of decorations and candy, but very little mention of the Lord. This was from a not particularly Christian writer. And I thought how sad that so many people in that country had lost sight of the true meaning of Christmas.
But the other thing that did for me was to make me grateful for you, for people who are here, in churches, who are praising the Lord in so many ways tonight. God bless you! That is the first way to do an angel’s work, to praise the Lord, to praise the Lord regularly and to remember Him in your heart. Pray every day and worship every week.
The second way to praise the Lord, my friends, is to help people. You never know when God will be calling you to help someone—with an encouraging word, with the simplicity and beauty of your smile, with a helping hand in some way. Oh, to do this is to do an angel’s work.
It can be in the simplest of ways. I had the opportunity in the supermarket not long ago—I’ve told some of you about this. I was standing in line, waiting to pay for my groceries. The line was long, as you could imagine at Christmas time. The checkout clerk was a lady named Joanne. She obviously had a hard time lifting things, and so it was with difficulty that she moved things from one side of the counter to the other.
I had one food item on the counter, and Joanne looked at the label and said, “You know, I don’t think this is quite right.” She scanned it, and she couldn’t quite get it. So she called her manager. The other people in line were just waiting and looking. The manager went to check and came back. Joanne nodded and smiled and said, “I was right. I saved you money on this one.” Isn’t that lovely? She scanned the item and continued with her work.
I said, “Joanne…”
She said, “Yes?”
I said, “You are a very, very nice and considerate person. Thank you.”
She looked straight ahead for a minute, then she looked up at me and she smiled the biggest smile. She said, “Thank you, sir. People rarely say anything nice.”
I said, “God bless you, and merry Christmas.”
She said, “Merry Christmas to you, too.”
Friends, you never know when the Lord is going to call upon you to do something special for another person, to help them feel happy. You can do it, and God will bless you for it. My friends, this Christmas time and in the year to come, I invite you to listen for the angel voices, nudging you to bless, nudging you to praise the Lord, nudging you help other people be happy, for in doing so, you will be doing an angel’s work. And you, too, will behold within the smile of the babe of Bethlehem.
I wish you a merry and blessed Christmas and a happy, healthy new year. God bless you. God loves you, and I do, too. Amen.
© 2007 Anthony J. Godlefski