By Elizabeth Prata
It is the season of advent, when we anticipate the commemoration of the baby Jesus’ birth into the world. His appearing was miraculous, humble, and the start of a new covenant. It’s the holiday we call Christmas!
The advent story is filled with amazing happenings and interesting characters. Looming large is Mary, of course, John the Baptist, Joseph, Herod, the Wise Men (Magi), and more. We have Simeon, Zecharias, Anna, and the Shepherds. But we also have angels.
Once you start clueing in to the heavy presence and activity of angels in this story it’s really amazing to see just how active they are in the doings of man on earth at the command of God. An angel named Gabriel announced the coming savior to Mary. Angels announced the birth to Shepherds in their fields by night. An angel of the Lord came to Joseph in a dream and told him to take his family and flee to Egypt. I personally believe the star leading the Magi to the boy child’s house was an angel.
The involvement of angels in the Babe’s birth and immediately after continued throughout the New Testament (and was just as active in the Old, of course). And, they were involved in the crucifixion and its aftermath, too. They were involved in giving of the Old Testament Law at Sinai, executing judgment, worshiping God, ministering to humans, and engaging in warfare.
Angels are amazing.
We know the ‘veil’ between this world and the angels’ world is thin. When Jesus was speaking to Peter, John, and James on the mount, He transfigured and was simultaneously taking with Moses and Elijah who appeared next to Him. When Elisha’s servant became fearful seeing the enemy’s war machine surrounding them in the city of Dothan, Elisha asked the Lord to open his servant’s eyes. And what did he see? The Lord’s invisible army, now visible, numerous, and waiting. When Stephen the first martyr of the faith lay dying in the street, stones raining down around his head, he looked up and saw the heavens parted and the Son of Man at throne of God.
These ‘peeks’ are intriguing. Have other people in our times been privy to see beyond the veil? Have they been given a peek? Some people have reported unusual activity at the moment of a believer’s death, or have said their loved one exclaimed at a heavenly sight just before expiring.
I’ve come across two such stories recently. I enjoy the Gaither Vocal Band’s music, especially the piano playing of the prodigy and tremendously talented Anthony Burger. When he was just learning to walk, he fell into a furnace and suffered third degree burns on his hands, arms, and face. Doctors said he would likely never move his hands again. The Lord had other ideas, and by the time Anthony was three, he was playing the piano. By the age of five, he was accepted into the Cadek Conservatory, and just a few years after that, he was playing complicated classical music pieces.
When Anthony was saved, he dedicated his life to play Gospel music, making his first recording at the tender age of 14! He was beloved, earning Favorite Pianist in the Singing News Fan Awards for an unprecedented ten years. Later, for a few years they even renamed the award after him (“Anthony Burger Award”).
In 2006 Burger was aboard a cruise ship as part of the Gaither Band Christian Cruise. He was playing the evening concert, accompanying Dottie Rambo on the piece “Hear My Song, Lord”. A woman in the front row noticed that Burger had stopped playing and his fists were clenched above the piano keys as he struggled to continue. Unbeknownst to her, Burger was suffering a massive heart attack.
The woman, and other eyewitnesses, reported seeing a ‘tall, misty being’ standing behind Anthony. The being had his hand on Burger’s shoulder. Burger looked up at him and then back to the piano, and began slumping. Gaither singer Russ Taff said later that they saw the woman gesturing for their attention as she pointed to Anthony. Ernie Haase and other singers rushed over to Anthony and lifted him in a seated position and brought him back stage, before he collapsed completely. The coroner estimated that Anthony was probably dead before they laid him on the floor. His heart had exploded. He was 44.
The other story is one that happened in the jungles of Ecuador in 1956. Several men who had slowly been working with a dangerous and violent tribe by air, finally had made personal contact on the ground, landing their plane on a narrow strip of sand adjacent to a river, a place they dubbed “Palm Beach”. Their first contact went well, so a few days later, they landed again. This time they were not so fortunate. The Huaorani had been quick to kill others and were known to want to be left alone. Despite earlier friendly responses to the missionaries’ overtures, this time they speared all five men on the beach.
As Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, Roger Youderian, Ed McCully, and Peter Fleming lay dying on the beach, two other women from the tribe watched the proceedings from behind the bushes. (Nate’s son returned tot he spot in the mid 1990s. He interviewed the now Christianized tribe members, some of whom were still alive and present during the attack on his father and the other men. From the article Christianity Today, “Did They have To Die?” by Steve Saint in 1996, we read,
“Dawa, one of the three women, told me she had hidden in the bush through the attack, hearing but not seeing the killing of the five men. She told me she had been hit by gun pellets in the wrist and just above the knee. (They obviously came from random warning shots fired to scare the attacker, because Dawa was hiding on the far side of the narrow river and the men could not have known of her presence.) She also told me that after the killing she saw COWODI (Auca word for foreigners) above the trees, singing”. (Alternate source: “God Bearing Witness“)
“She didn’t know what this kind of music was until later she heard records of Aunt Rachel’s and became familiar with the sound of a choir. Mincaye and Kimo confirmed that they heard the singing and saw what Dawa seems to describe as angels along the ridge above Palm Beach. Dyuwi verified hearing the strange music, though he describes what he saw more like lights, moving around and shining, a sky full of jungle beetles similar to fireflies with a light that is brighter and doesn’t blink. Apparently all the participants saw this bright multitude in the sky and felt they should be scared, because they knew it was something supernatural. (Source).”
Did the Huaorani see angels hovering above the trees, ready to receive the souls of the dead missionaries? Perhaps. Perhaps they did. Saul/Paul clearly saw and heard the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, while others simply saw a light or heard a loud sound. (Acts 9:7, Acts 22:9). When God spoke to Jesus in John 12:29, some thought it was thunder while others thought an angel had spoken to him. The point is, sometimes there IS leak-through. Those whom God chooses to speak to hear Him or His messenger clearly, but bystanders, if any, don’t hear or see clearly but are aware of something supernatural going on. Did the woman on the Gaither cruise see an angel? Had the Huaorani seen angelic beings? I don’t know. I’m unwilling to say that they didn’t.
When we get to heaven, we will meet the ministering angels, and we can thank them for their service to us in the name of Yahweh. Until then, keep your eyes and ears open. 🙂