15 Dec A Little Angelic Activity
Let mutual love continue.
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,
For in so doing, some have entertained angels unaware.
What comes to mind when you hear the word “angel”? For some people, thoughts of chubby, sweet-faced cherubs immediately pop up. For others, their images are of Christmas pageants full of nervous white-gowned children with wings Velcroed to their backs and halos made of silver pipe cleaners (standing next to shepherds in bathrobes). Still others think of guardian angels or perhaps one of the stories in the Bible where an angel appears to an unsuspecting mortal, usually scaring them half to death.
We talk a lot about angels this time of year. As we retell the familiar story of Jesus’ birth, we read that at various points in the narrative an angel appears to Zechariah, to Joseph, to Mary, to the shepherds. These angels are sent by God with a message—indeed, both the Greek and Hebrew words for angel can be translated as “messenger.”
From these visitations we learn that angels are beings who can and do cross between the spiritual realm and the physical realm. They signify that God cares about the world and is involved in it, that God is near to us, and especially present to people who are oppressed.
The preacher who delivers the sermon known as the New Testament Letter to the Hebrews tells us that angels are around us and we don’t even know it. They show up incognito at the doors of our homes and our hearts. Who are these angels? Presbyterian Pastor Melissa Bane Sevier asks a provocative question: “Does it matter? Can we ever know? Or are we supposed to treat everyone—stranger, neighbor, family member, enemy, lifelong friend, coworker, atheist, fellow Christian, someone who is just like us or someone who is our opposite—as if that person is bearing some unknown message from the living God? How might we see people differently if we understood them to be God’s messengers?”
I love this thought. It seems that much of the incivility and disrespect in our families, among co-workers and in our public sphere stems from the misguided idea that those who disagree with us or are different from us have nothing to teach us or share with us that is of value. We do not have to agree about everything to be kind, thoughtful and compassionate and to listen with respect and an open heart. We do not have to agree on doctrine or politics to affirm the worth and dignity of all persons. We do not need to agree on all points to receive a message from God delivered by an unlikely messenger. God has a crazy habit of doing just that—picking the least, the lowly, the uneducated, the person everyone overlooks—to carry the divine.
It requires us to pay attention, of course, to be alert and watchful, and to be willing to receive a divine visitation, regardless of the source. Which brings up another provocative question: where might you look for angels this Advent season? How might you be attentive to a messenger of God?
And, perhaps, you could consider engaging in a little angelic activity yourself.
Wouldn’t It Be Grand to Be an Angel?
Wouldn’t it be grand to be an angel
and have as your address
“The Realms of the Glory of God”?
And swing on rainbows,
and gather stars in your pockets,
winging in and out of earth
in a flurry of moondust
with the messages of God?
Comforting the distressed, warning the righteous,
delivering the just, guarding little children?
Of course, we can comfort and warn
and deliver and guard.
Maybe, if we get that right,
we can swing on rainbows later.
by Ann Weems