We are about to be visited by Angles! I am, of course, referring to the stories about the visits by the angel Gabriel to Mary and the Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin and the mother of John the Baptist. Additionally, in our Nativity stories, angels visit some shepherds who are taking care of their flocks near the town of Bethlehem. These visits of this group of folks (angels) is on of the motet interesting parts of the foundational narratives of our faith, the birth of Jesus.
The work ‘angel’ as you may know, is the English translation of the Latin work angelus which translated means “messenger.” Popular usage since the early days of Christianity, Islam and Judaism has softened and indeed changed some of our view of what an “angel” does or is. Let’s not lose sight that these messengers represent a deep human impulse for communication with something beyond ourselves. In so many faith traditions, messengers are the bearers of that we may all look for: hope.
Even at our most secular we celebrate those who bring us “tidings” of news with letters, great stories, or even email. Angels are the special messengers as they bring us word from another country, one suffused with forgiveness and compassion and hope, if we will only listen and pay attention. And although Mary and Elizabeth and even Mohamed (also visited by Gabriel) were probably not in doubt that they were engaged with a heavenly voice, our stumbling is often visited by angels that we don’t recognize.
Vigilance for “angels” in our lives can only be a good thing. We long to discern God’s vision, God’s desire for us, or just simply some sense of being loved by God. We miss the messengers who bring us what we need. The fact of our beloved-ness may be too much for us … too opaque, or too scary, even.
The angels of the Advent and Christmas stories open to us the real possibility of the angels in our lives who bring us news from God.
“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.” (Luke 2:10)
Who are the messengers in your life? Watch for them!
The Rev. Canon Lawrence B. Weeks