Thursday, December 10, 2015

In the Picture: The Angelic Host

Annunciation to the Shepherds William Blake, 1809

Read Luke 2.13 -14
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
   and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’

The account of the annunciation of Christ’s birth to the shepherds doesn’t just involve one angel. A “multitude of the heavenly host” appears as well.
The “heavenly host” doesn’t often appear in the Bible, and when it does, for example in 2 Kings 6.17, it is as a heavenly army, ready to fight the enemies of God.
Forget the cute nativity play angels, these are mighty warriors, and you wouldn’t want to meet them on a dark night! But that is exactly what happens to these shepherds on the hillside outside Bethlehem. No wonder they are terrified. The song the angels sing, however, is one of peace. The Romans claimed to bring their version of peace, the Pax Romana, to the nations they conquered, but it was a peace which demanded submission to Rome, and was maintained by ruthless suppression of dissent. The Biblical vision of God’s peace is entirely different. It comes into being when what is wrong is set right, and it is rooted in love.
William Blake’s attempt to portray this moment is full of light, but beyond the splendour of the angels we can just see the cause of their rejoicing, a distant stable in which Mary and Joseph gaze at their new born son.
  • When have you felt most at peace in your life?
  • Do you feel at peace now? If not, what would have to be set right in your life to bring you the peace you long for?
See below for a bonus today! Two fascinating short films from the National Gallery. Why not take a look for yourself at the angels they have there. Entry to the National Gallery (in Trafalgar Square) is free.

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