What You Don't Know About Christmas Angels

What role did the fallen angels have during Jesus' birth and how many angels sang to the shepherds? Learn more about the Christmas angels.

Have a question about angels? Email Bill Webber at angelquestions@beliefnetstaff.com.*


Find Out: This December, I'm offering different insight into the role of angels in the story of Christmas.  Since the answers to the questions below are not found directly in the Gospel accounts of Christmas, I have taken what the Bible teaches about the nature and attributes of angels to offer my thoughts.

1. In the Bible, God’s holy angels appear five times in the Christmas story, more than any other time in the Scripture. But what about the “evil” or fallen angels? Did they do anything that first Christmas?

From the Book of Genesis through Revelation, we find Satan and the “evil” or fallen angels are continually at war with God and the holy angels. Satan did not want Jesus to be born so, of course, the fallen angels would have done everything to prevent the birth of Jesus. Yet angels are not omniscient, and depending on how quiet Gabriel's visitation was to Mary (Luke 1:26-38), the fallen angels could have been caught off guard. After Mary was pregnant with Jesus, the fallen angels may have begun a campaign of lies and hate. Certain events in the Bible story suggest the work of fallen angels.

For example, fallen angels probably tempted Joseph to doubt the story Mary told him of Gabriel’s visit so he would “put Mary away quietly” (Matthew 1:19-22). Joseph resisted this temptation only because God sent an angel to tell him, “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.” It was a different matter with the village gossips in Nazareth. No angels appeared to set them straight, and the fallen angels must have laughed when Mary’s neighbors embraced the temptation to tarnish her reputation and make life difficult for her.

Also, the fallen angels may have given Mary and Joseph a hard time on their journey to Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-5), perhaps causing accidents in hopes of destroying Mary and her unborn child. If so, the fallen angels were no match for the guardian angels that protected Mary and Joseph. The struggle did not slow down their journey, even when there was no room in Bethlehem and God’s son had to be born in a barn (Luke 2:6-7). The evil ones probably laughed when Jesus was born in a manger, but God allowed beauty into the story of the savior’s birth.

No doubt Satan and his angels were also behind the scenes tempting King Herod to kill all the young children in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16-17). God thwarted the sinister plot to kill Jesus by sending an angel to guide Joseph to flee to Egypt with Mary and Jesus (Matthew 2:13-15). Read more: Heralding the Christmas Angels

2. Do angels sing? Doesn’t Luke 2:13 say, “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly hosts appeared with the angel, praising God…”?

Yes, angels sing. No doubt this was not the occasion for a verse-speaking choir but a most glorious heavenly harmony. Read more: Do Angels Sing?

3. Do all angels have good singing voices?

Like humans, some angels may have better singing voices than others, but the least gifted of the heavenly hosts probably sings more beautifully than the best human. Since angels aren't hampered by human skin or other earthly constraints such as voice boxes, they probably "sing" in a totally different way, but I’ll bet they're always singing on key.

4. How many angels were in the Christmas choir for that concert over Bethlehem?

In the New International Version of the Bible, Luke 2 states there was “a great company of the heavenly hosts” while the King James Version states there was “a multitude of heavenly hosts.” There are countless angels (think millions and billions as a start), so the choir was limited only by the space in the sky over the shepherd’s field. Their number may also have been limited so that music wouldn’t be overheard by the entire town of Bethlehem. No doubt every angel in heaven would have loved to have been chosen for the historic event.

5. Did the angels have to rehearse in heaven before they sang to the shepherds?

Most of us who sing in a choir learn the music on our own first to sing the right notes and then practice to sing together. There are humans who are so gifted that they are able to look at a piece of music and sing it correctly the first time. The angels must be able to do it even better. My guess is that the angels probably memorized their song immediately and rehearsed for the sheer joy of it before singing to the shepherds. Read more: Shepherding the Angels

6. Did the other angels in heaven listen in?

Yes, I am sure the balcony of heaven was filled with angels listening. Although, wherever they were, every angel was probably singing and celebrating. Unlike the angels that the shepherds saw, these other angels would have been in their natural spirit form and unseen by human eyes. Since angels in spirit form do not take up space, there was probably no limit to the number of angels observing.

7. Which angel wrote the Christmas song "Glory to God in the Highest"? Are some angels composers, always writing new music, or do the angels sing and play the same songs over and over for all eternity?

All angels are not the same. God has given each of them varying abilities, and they serve in many different ways, from being a guardian angel to ruling spiritual realms. Since God is also known as the Creator, the angels probably revel in creating things like music and songs.

Maybe God created some angels with the gift to compose music like humans, but what humans can do well, angels can do much better. Many of their compositions might be sung and played over and over, like our “Hallelujah Chorus.” Just as Bach wrote new music for every Sunday service, so the angels may compose appropriate music for every new situation. I believe the first Christmas song is an example.

8. Was Gabriel the angel who spoke to the shepherds?

Gabriel appeared to Mary at the annunciation, but we don't know if it was Gabriel who spoke to the shepherds because the Bible does not say. Even if it wasn’t Gabriel, it probably wouldn’t have mattered to him since angels don’t have egos. Every angel would have been overjoyed just to have any role in the birth of Jesus.

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