Advent and the song of the heavenly host

This morning, as I walked the dog, I was thinking about Luke's advent story. An angel appears to shepherds. That right there is a big deal. The angel is God's messenger from heaven and these guys are the dirty low lives of society who are working the only job available to them, cast out by society.

The angel terrifies them so the first thing the angel says is "Fear not." Then the angel tells them the joyful news, a new Davidic king has been born. Ironically, they will find this king in a feeding trough. The new king appears in their area of derision, animal husbandry. Before they go visit the new king a heavenly choir of angels appears singing about peace and God's favor.

Some of our Western cultural milieu makes us ignorant of what words mean. For example, a heavenly host is an army. The greek word means "army." Here is the awesome irony we tend to miss because we think heavenly host means heavenly boys choir. God's "army" does not come with weapons of steel or gunpowder, but of voices of praise and peace and adoration. There is a foreshadowing of this army in the story of Joshua's assault on Jericho. It was an assault of seven days of worship.

Here is the wonderful irony, the great king comes with an army of music who sings of hope and peace. It's the same ironic vision of John's apocalypse, where the conquering lion turns out to be a wounded lamb whose sword is words, not steel or gunpowder.

We can still join the angels and sing along,
Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward all!

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