Advent Stories: The Angel

Fear not!

I figured I should get that out of the way. It’s not the best opening line, but when humans are constantly fainting or having near heart failure every time they see you, you learn to do a little advance damage control.

I realize an angelic appearance can be a little startling at first, but every single time? Come on. When faced with something you don’t understand, you always reach for fear. It’s your way of protecting yourself from the unknown, I guess, but it seems strange to me.

I’ve had more chances to terrify people these past few months since the days of the patriarchs. Not that that’s my goal—although, okay, I’ll admit, it is fun.

No, the point, the whole focus of my existence, is being a messenger of the glory of God.

Sound familiar? It should. That’s your purpose too. It’s just you humans get so caught up in the tiny externals of your little lives that you forget why you’re here.

I’m doing it again. That condescending thing. Sometimes, I have to remind myself, we’re not that different: me, an ancient, heaven-dwelling, genderless, warrior-messenger and you, a weak, mortal human born to live on Earth for a hundred years at most and doomed to fall and fail a thousand times before then.

See? Practically the same.

For example, we both…ah…we’re almost….

Nope. I got nothing. But I’ll think of it, I promise.

It’s just easier for me to see the differences. Like your attitude toward the birth of Jesus. It’s like you don’t know.

Do you realize what he gave up?

No, of course you don’t. You can’t. I’ve seen the glory of God face-to-face, the throbbing, limitless power that spoke the universe into existence and now holds it in motion. But you’re on this side of the Veil, stuck here in your tiny, bleak, blink-and-you’d-miss-it lives.

Not trying to insult you or anything. I just see so many of you so obsessed with your few moments here. You are utterly insignificant, frail little dustlings with goals too small and fears too large.

And yet, you are his sons and daughters. You are of ultimate significance. I can’t forget that.

It’s a mystery. The only mystery we angels have.

From here, we can see the twisting line of your history, stretching back ages and dynasties, the same cycles repeating over and over— idolatry, sacrificing freedom for the promise of security, assuming the best of yourselves and the worst of others.

We can watch the beautiful, precise dance of physics and cheer as you discover bits and pieces of it, discovering truth, valuing knowledge, creating because you were made to imitate your Creator.

We can observe the way you relate to each other, understanding your moves and countermoves so well we can almost predict your words and reactions, good or bad.

Maybe I’m telling you something you already know. What I see in miniature, like models in a display, you see in headlines and heartbreaks and the daily snubs and sufferings of your lives.

Who can say which of us understands it better? Angels who observe it at a distance, our vision unclouded by emotions and widened by the scope of ages, or you humans who laugh and mourn and love, who hurt and hurt others, who live in the world of Image and Fall.

So, all that to say: very little surprises me anymore.

The Arrival did. The night when God came down to earth.

Angels aren’t often aware of time—another difference between us and you. You treat time like a limited commodity: save it, spend it, hoard it, watch it trickle helplessly through your fingers like hourglass sand. We use time when it’s needed to make sense of the Story, like chapter headings.

And that night will be a sign for us. All of us, human and angel, marking the entrance of the glory of God into your little world, your little town of Bethlehem.

Sing about it. Please. Sing and remember what it means. There, that’s one thing we have in common—music. I should have thought of it right away.

When the announcements are over, when the battles have been fought and the struggle complete and the news delivered, there are always songs to express what we can never fully understand. There is praise to the God who sees and knows and loves you humans in a way I never can.

Salvation. It makes no sense, but it’s beautiful. Maybe that’s why we celebrate, why we sing. Listen to the message we gave to the shepherds about Jesus’ entrance into your world: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

The message was about God’s glory, not about you.

But…it was about you, all the same. He gave the Son for you. A mystery.

Don’t forget. Don’t make Jesus less than who he is. We didn’t sound the trumpets of heaven to announce a good teacher, didn’t light up the sky to celebrate the birth of a prophet. We tore down the veil between heaven and earth, just for a moment, because God himself stepped down into your world, into time, to finish the story he began in the Garden.

That kind of love leaves me in awe. Today, tomorrow, and always, to put it in terms you would understand.

Take a lesson from the angels. When faced with something you don’t understand…worship.

word

(To read the rest of the Advent Stories, go here.)

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