Christmas is a time for stories — preferably read to a child on a warm lap by a blazing fire (can you tell I grew up in the mountains up north?).
One of my favorite stories was told to me years ago by Ted Loder, a wonderful Methodist minister from Philadelphia. We all know about the choir of angels in the nativity story, and their announcement to the shepherds watching their flocks by night. This is the rest of the story.
It seems that after the shepherds departed for Bethlehem, the angels still faced the long journey back to their heavenly home. The only problem was, they couldn’t remember the directions (remember, this was long before GPS). They argued among themselves: Was it straight to the Big Dipper, then hang a left? Or was it over to Orion’s Belt, and a hard right? None of them could remember.
This went on for so long that the night passed quickly by, and dawn was approaching. There is a rule among angels that can never be broken: No matter what, angels can never ever be seen in daylight. Something had to be done. Where could they hide?
An angel came up with an idea: Hide in a cave. So all of the angels flew into a nearby cavern. The problem was, however, that the cave glowed brightly with all that angelic energy! This would never do.
So another angel suggested that they hide in a nearby flock of sheep; so each angel hid in the fleecy wool of a sheep. Again, there was a problem. The sheep had halos! This just wouldn’t do.
As the pink of the sunrise painted the horizon, the angelic chorus was in a panic. Where could they go? How could they hide? It would be disastrous if they broke the rules and were seen in the light of day.
Then one very wise angel came up with a brilliant plan. Each of the angels would hide in a person! There were lots of people around the countryside. So the angels went hither and yon and found people to hide in. One picked a tailor, one picked a shepherd, one picked a carpenter, another picked a tentmaker. On it went, until the whole heavenly choir was safely hidden in lots and lots of people.
Now, there is a secret in this story. Please don’t tell anyone. Shhh. The secret is … they’re still there! All these many years later, those angels are still hiding in all sorts of people — poor people, rich people, black people and white people and brown people, religious people and not-so-religious people. They’re still there.
Every now and then, if you look very, very closely, you can catch a glimpse of them. You can sense their presence, especially at those moments when someone does something kind. They are especially noticeable when someone forgives someone else.
Keep an eye out, then, for the angels. You never know when you’ll sense them. I’m so glad they stayed, for their quiet presence in our midst makes people all the more special, all the more precious.
So find a blazing fire sometime in this holy season, and find a child — borrow one if you have to — cuddle them on your lap, and tell them about the angels. And may this season bring you joy.
Blair Monie is senior pastor of the Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church. The Worship section is a regular feature underwritten by Advocate Publishing and by the neighborhood business people and churches listed on these pages. For information about helping support the Worship section, call 214.560.4202 or e-mail here.
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