Painting of the Angel Gabriel announcing the birth of Christ
Annunciation by William Brassey Hole. Public domain image courtesy of marysrosaries.com

 

Our Christmas Angels

by Stephen M. Bird. Posted December 14, 2012.    Print this Article

I will never forget that moment when I knew a speeding truck was going to hit us on my side of the car. It happened during the Christmas season of 1969, while I served an LDS mission in Bakersfield, California. I vividly remember riding in the front passenger seat while a new, inexperienced missionary, Elder Fodness drove. Elder Timms, a Teacher-Leader rode with his companion in the back seat.

My Bakersfield Car Accident

Elder Fodness was driving us to the Bakersfield Division of Motor Services to get his driver’s license. We were going the speed limit on a four-lane one-way street and we were in the third lane from the right. The truck sped toward the intersection from our right, passing other cars, going about 50 miles per hour. Elder Fodness did not see the truck racing toward us because he was looking at the green light. I could see the truck speeding toward us. So could the drivers in the cars in the lanes to the right of us because they slowed down and stopped even though we had the green light. Elder Fodness, being an inexperienced driver, and not seeing the truck, drove into the intersection.

At that moment a powerful calmness settled over me. I knew the truck was going to hit us on my side, and yet I felt, not fear, but rather I felt a tremendous calm. I felt enclosed in a warm and peaceful protective bubble. I watched the truck hit our car on my side and I felt utterly at peace. The lady driving the truck hit our car at full impact. She did not slow down. She later told the police she thought her light was green and the officer told us he had cited her for speeding and for running a red light.

Her truck smashed into my door on the front passenger side where I sat, shattering the window and crushing the door. Her truck pushed our car out of the intersection. The insurance company said our car was totaled. Even though I had watched and felt her truck crash into our car and push it through the intersection and to the opposite curb, I had felt a supreme peace.

I did not have even a single scratch that required a band aid.

After our car came to a stop, I looked down at my lap expecting to see glass all over my suit. Imagine my surprise, when I saw myself sitting on the glass without a speck of glass on me. When I got out of the car, on the driver’s side, those powerful feelings of peace disappeared and normal feelings of anxiety returned. We were taken to the hospital to be examined and x-rayed, but none of us were injured. I did not have even a single scratch that required a band aid. All these things made me think that my companions and I had been protected by an unseen higher power, perhaps by guardian angels.

Where Angels Walk

Joan Wester Anderson wrote the New York Times bestseller, Where Angels Walk, after her son’s life was saved, possibly by an angel. She said her son Tim and two roommates with him, Don and Jim were driving home for Christmas in 1983 during a “record-breaking cold spell, complete with gale-force winds and frozen water pipes.” Tim had dropped Don off at his home first, and then in spite of repeated public warnings, decided to push on to his own home in Chicago with Jim on Christmas Eve because he was only four hours away. [1]

After several miles, however, their car began to lose power until the engine died and their car stopped, leaving them without any heat. A radio announcer had said, “There’s a record windchill of eighty below zero, which means the exposed skin will freeze in less than a minute.” As they looked for help they saw no other lights, no other vehicles on the road, no homes across the open fields. Tim had never experienced such intense cold. Since he could do nothing else, he prayed. “Well, God … You’re the only one who can help us now. [2]

Then the lights of a tow-truck appeared out of nowhere. Neither Tim nor his friend Jim saw the truck approach. The driver hooked them up and took them back to their friend Don’s home. There, they rushed into the house to get warm and borrow money to pay the driver. Their friend Don said, “I don’t see any tow truck out there.” There had been no sound of releasing chains, no sound of a slamming door, no driver to present a bill, or to say “Merry Christmas.” And when they went outside, they found only the tire tracks of their own car in the cul-de-sac by the curb. [3]

After that experience Joan Wester Anderson began to learn about angels. She rented a post office box and wrote to magazines asking them to publish a letter requesting stories of “people who believe they may have met an angel.” She waited and then saw her letter printed in one of the magazines. Shortly thereafter she found her mailbox “filled with envelopes.” [4]

Angels Announce the Birth of Christ and Save His Life

I tell these two stories to prepare our minds for the real possibility, and for me the firm fact, that angels announced the birth of Christ so many years ago.

Of the four gospel writers, only two tell of angelic visitations at or before Christ’s birth. Matthew reported, “Now the birth of Jesus was on this wise ...” (Matthew 1:18) and Luke, the physician wrote that his story of Christ came from those “which from the beginning were eyewitnesses” (Luke 1:2).

Matthew told how an angel appeared to Joseph three times. First, when Joseph discovered Mary to be pregnant before their marriage, he “put her away privily” (Matthew 1:19) and pondered whether to wed Mary or not. Matthew said, “behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream” (Matthew 1:20) to assure him that Mary’s child was conceived of the Holy Ghost and to direct him to wed Mary with confidence. The angel quoted an Old Testament prophecy: “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matthew 1:23 quoting Isaiah 7:14). Hence Joseph wedded Mary.

In chapter two, Matthew told the story of the three wise men. After they visited King Herod, he asked them to return and tell him where they’d found the Christ child. But the wise men were warned in a dream not to return to Herod and when they departed “the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him” (Matthew 2:12-13).

“Then Herod, when he saw he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under” (Matthew 2:16).

Matthew then reported a third angelic appearance to Joseph. He wrote that “when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life” (Matthew 2:19-20).

Luke Recorded That an Angel Prophesied the Birth of John and Christ

Luke told the story of an angel’s appearance to Zacharias, husband of Elisabeth who was barren and “well stricken in years” (Luke 1:7). This angel told Zacharias, “thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John” (Luke 1:13). Because Zacharias doubted the angel’s word and asked for a sign, he received one. The angel struck him dumb so that when he came out of the temple, he could not speak, but could only write answers to those who questioned him.

In the sixth month of Elisabeth’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to foretell of her virgin birth saying, “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bring forth a son, and shall call his name JESUS” (Luke 1:31).

The angel Gabriel also told her that her cousin Elisabeth had conceived in old age and was in her sixth month of pregnancy (Luke 1:36). Mary then went to see her cousin and I’m sure they shared their stories with each other and others (Luke 1:39-43).

In the second chapter, Luke wrote of “shepherds abiding in the field” (Luke 2:8). He said:

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe 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,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men (Luke 2:9-14).

I remember attending an LDS Military Religious Retreat with my wife in Berchtesgaden, Germany for a week when I was a young sergeant in the Army. We (the attendees) stayed at the General Walker Hotel at the top of a winding mountain road. We ate in the dining room and we met in the Skyline room (the ballroom). Herr Lau, the manager of the hotel was invited to address us at our first session. He said he had stood in the Skyline room when Hitler met with his admirals and generals at a World War II conference.

I wish you the peace of Christ, which is more than the absence of war.

Then he said something I'll never forget, “I wish you the peace of Christ, which is more than the absence of war.” And he quoted our Savior: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). The apostle Paul said “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7).

For myself, I have personally felt that supreme “peace” and “good will toward men” from God, which the angels announced so long ago. If you have not felt it yet in your life, then I personally pray that you will. And if you have felt it, then I pray that you will feel it again. May we ever seek for this peace of Jesus Christ to fill our lives. And may we especially remember Christ and the angelic host as signs of God's love this Christmas season.

Notes:

[1] Joan Wester Anderson, Where Angels Walk (New York: Ballantine, 1992), 1-2.

[2] Ibid., 2-3.

[3] Ibid., 4-5.

[4] Ibid., 13.

[Note: All of the scriptures I quote are from the King James Version of the Bible unless I specify a different translation.]

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