Angels are a great Sunday School topic, mostly because kids have lots to say about them! There are all kinds of angels — guardian angels, Christmas angels, the Los Angeles Angels, fallen angels, and angels of death to name a few — and according to a somewhat recent poll, over 3/4 of Americans say they believe in angels.
So, for today’s post, we’ll focus on the Isaiah passage from this week’s Revised Common Lectionary selections. Here are the verses we like to share with kids.
6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple.
6:2 Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew.
6:3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
6:4 The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.
6:5 And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
6:6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs.
6:7 The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.”
Angels might show up in so many different ways because they have been around for so long. As an example, they are found in Zoroastrianism, one of the world’s “ur” religions that may date to the 2nd millienium BCE. In that tradition, which emphasizes an ongoing cosmic battle between good and evil, angels are on Team Good. They emanate from Ahura Mazda, the Wise God, and they personally aid and protect their assigned individuals.
Angels also appear throughout the Bible. They can be found in some of the oldest books (2 Samuel), the first book (Genesis), the last book of the Christian Bible (Revelation) and various places in between (Job, Psalms, Matthew, John, Hebrews).
The Zoroastrian idea of angels-as-protectors, shows up in Genesis, when they urge Lot to leave Sodom before its destruction.
Genesis 19: 15 (NRSV translation)
When morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Get up, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or else you will be consumed in the punishment of the city.”
The Zoroastrian idea of angels embodying wisdom shows up, too, in the apocalyptic visions of Daniel. This passage even names the angel, Gabriel.
Daniel 9:20-23a (NRSV translation)
While I was speaking, and was praying and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God on behalf of the holy mountain of my God — while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen before in a vision, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. He came and said to me, “Daniel, I have now come out to give you wisdom and understanding. At the beginning of your supplications a word went out, and I have come to declare it, for you are greatly beloved….
Gabriel, as many Christians know, also shows up in the Christian Bible as the messenger who appeared to both Zechariah and Mary the mother of Jesus to announce the upcoming births of John the Baptist and Jesus (Luke 1:1-38). Interestingly, the Church of the Latter-day Saints (aka the Mormon church) also embraces the angel Gabriel, and traditional church teachings hold that Gabriel first led a mortal life as Noah.
Angels are mentioned, or referred to, many times in both the Qur’an and the Hadith (a collection of thoughts/words/deeds of the Prophet Muhammad when he was alive). Gabriel (Jibrail), in particular, is an extremely important character. Most Muslims believe the Qur’an is a divine revelation from Allah (God) to the Prophet Muhammad, but the revelation comes through Gabriel. Here are a couple of passages from the Qur’an that mention Gabriel. (Interestingly, some translations use the word “Spirit” instead. For our previous post that touches on “Holy Spirit” in the Qur’an, click here.)
Qur’an 2:97 (Bakhtiar translation, published by islamicworld.com, 2007)
Say: Whoever is an enemy of Gabriel, (know that it) was sent down through him to your heart with the permission of God establishing as true what (was) before it and as a guidance and good tidings for the ones who believe.
And indeed, We gave Musa (Moses) the Book and followed him up with a succession of Messengers. And We gave Isa (Jesus), the son of Maryam (Mary), clear signs and supported him with Ruh-ul-Qudus [Jibrael/Gabriel]. Is it that whenever there came to you a Messenger with what you yourselves desired not, you grew arrogant? Some you disbelieved and some you killed.
It is also Gabriel who guides Muhammad through the seven heavens on his miraculous Night Journey. Muslims celebrate that event as a holy day often called Isra and Mi’raj; it was in mid-April of 2018. The Night Journey passage is an amazing miracle story and one of our favorites. The entire story is told in a single verse of the Hadith (Book 1, Kitab al-Iman (Book of Faith), Verse 309). It doesn’t take long to read, but it’s chock full of wonderful imagery and offers interesting insights into the Islamic faith.
Thanks to the Christmas angels, there are literally hundreds of angel crafts out there for kids, so it’s easy to find something suitable for any/all ages. Here are a couple of links to get you started.
As always, the best part about this topic is giving kids a chance to share their thoughts. Have they ever seen an angel? Was it fun or scary? What do angels look like? What to angels do exactly? Does everyone have an angel — even people who seem mean? Are angels messengers of God or do they have some other role? How do you know when an angel has visited you? The list of questions is almost endless. In our Sunday School program at Jubilee! Church in Asheville, every other year, we spend 4 weeks talking about angels during Advent. And we never grow tired of it.
Interfaith Sunday School is a weekly blog offering tips for sharing information about the world’s faith traditions to kids. Posts are published on Wednesdays and focus on one of the Revised Common Lectionary readings for the upcoming Sunday. Questions? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.