My Dear Friends,
My old mother had a phrase which she used whenever a person, young or old, was at their worst. “What an angel!”, she’d breathe, half in amusement and half in frustration. This is an especially keen memory for me when I think of her oversight of our Christmas parties as children. At them, good humoured but exhausted, she would always be on the watch for especially “angelic” behaviour! She knew that angels were not always well-behaved.
Part of the reason Christmas strikes us so differently, and why so many desperately seek in it an escape from reality, is that the Christmas story appears to be full of well-behaved angels who go about telling people gently of vital and important things. Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds are all visited by these polite and well-behaved angelic visitors.
When we say that’s someone is being angelic we mean they are being very good to us. “You’re an angel!”, we might say if someone is being particularly helpful. But this doesn’t last for very long. Sooner or later we transform into the “bad angels” which my mother noticed at Christmas Parties.
There has been an extraordinary interest in the power and magic of angels in the past few years and in whatever way we view them there might be something in them to keep us sane and happy this Christmas, lasting into the New Year.
Looking at the role of the angels in the Christmas story, there is one way in which, good or bad, we can all have angelic powers. Angels throughout the scriptures, and not only our own scriptures, are always messengers. They bring messages from another world, another dimension, but their messages are meant for ordinary human beings. The messages they bring are not always a comfort. The Christmas angels brought fear, a fear which brought with it immobility and mistrust. Each of us, this Christmas, will be given angelic powers. We will be given the power from on high to BE AN ANGEL in one way or another. To each of us this Christmas will be given the power, incarnate in our own bodies or souls, to bring a message. We will be given grace to discover, among all the other things of Christmas, that we each have a message to share. We may be good OR bad this Christmas! But we can all be angels!!
Your Friend and Vicar,