Most of you know the story of the Living Nativities held in my yard, when the children were young. I would build a very humble stable with a simple manger and a bale of hay. I would send out the children in costume to musical cues as we blasted the neighborhood with Christmas songs. The last group to come to the stable were the angels and before their entrance, my house would be in total chaos. Through the years there was never a shortage of little girls who wanted to dress up like angels and parade around the yard. On those cold, cold December nights, the neighbors and all of the children playing the various parts in the stable would be getting antsy in the freezing weather. My girl friends and I would be dressing the Angels as quickly as possible… pulling the white costumes over their coats… putting on the furry earmuffs, giving each one a battery operated candle. One year, I heard little Elizabeth’s voice in the crowd, “Mrs, Moreland… Mrs Moreland… I need….” I was in such a frenzy I never let her finish… “Elizabeth, there is no time… the Angels are already moving ….” With that I slapped the white costume over her coat and hurried her out the door. A few minutes later her mother came through the back door looking for her. “Where’s Elizabeth, she came into the house , just to use the bathroom.” Ba dum ching… I had to confess, “Your daughter was conscripted into Angel service… I pointed toward the manger….”she went that a way ….”
At the end of the chaos, at that moment when all of the little girls with their white costumes and candles had marched out the front door, I would slip out the back door to catch the scene. The sight of the angels as they paraded down the driveway, encircled the crowd and found their way to the manger, is a treasure that I hold in my heart. In the dark moments of hospital rooms, and grave site farewells, I can, in my mind, march in the little angels and find comfort in their light. .
Angels played a big role in the Christmas story. First the Angel appeared to Zechariah, then the angel appeared to Mary. Now, in a field just outside Bethlehem, an entire heavenly host will come to the shepherds to announce the “Good News” of the birth of Jesus. I have spent much of my life studying the who and the what of the Christmas story. But this year it is the “where” that has captured my attention.
“It is to the shepherds that an Angel again appears. First to Zechariah in the Temple in Jerusalem, then to Mary in her home in Nazareth of Galilee, the back to Judea to the fields near Bethlehem. The divine messenger can be anywhere, and so therefore can the message; from religious institution, to home, to field.” (“Light of the World”, Amy-Jill Levine)
Yes, the “where” is an important part of the story. The birth of Jesus is announced into the darkest night… in fields far away from the light of the city. The glory of the Lord shines around them. The darker the night; the brighter the light. That line from a sermon has become my Advent theme this year. The real brightness of the light and the “good news” is its universality. The Angels bring good news for all people.
“The shepherds learn that a Savior has been born in the city of David. The universal is always anchored in the particular. “ (“Light of the World, Amy-Jill Levine.)
I like that line… the universal is indeed anchored in the particular. The universal good news that the love of God is for all people is anchored in you and in me. When we fully understand that, we see each other as the children of God that we are.
Grace and Peace at Advent