During Christmastime, we go over the all too familiar stories about Jesus’ birth. New Testament scholar Dr MIchael Wolter has an interesting interpretation of the nature of the heavenly host that appeared to the shepherds in Luke 2:13, which I covered in an earlier post.
Instead of reading it as some of the heavenly host, he reads it as all “the multitude of the heavenly host” appearing on earth to praise God for the birth of his Son. For the first time in Israel, all the angel’s around God’s heavenly throne had appeared. The birth of Jesus was unprecedented event in human history. Dr Wolter goes on to explain that the appearance of all the angels meant that “The distance that separates heaven and earth from each other [was] removed for a moment…” The boundary between heaven and earth had been lifted at the birth of Jesus but I do not think it was a temporary opening.
As Wolter and other scholars have pointed out, the New Testament birth narratives present the birth of Jesus as the start of a new epoch in Israel, and by extension, the world’s history. Therefore, what the shepherds were eyewitnesses to was just a brief glimpse at the new status quo between heaven and earth that had been established at the Messiah’s birth. This new reality was actually embodied in him. Jesus was in himself the human conduit between the celestial and terrestrial realms. This interpretation is further supported by what happened at Christ’s baptism and transfiguration (Luke 3:21-22, 9:28-35.) In both scenarios we see the heavens opened and God revealing himself to honour his Son. Jesus was the nexus point where heaven and earth intersected. Through Jesus’ life, God has provided an avenue for anyone who receives him to access heaven on earth.