Monday, December 16, 2013


Now after [the Magi] had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” --Matthew 2:13

Most Americans believe in Angels. Even a majority of non-Christians believe in Angels, as well as four in ten people who never attend religious services. In the Bible, Angels (sometimes translated as "Messengers", as in messengers from God) are everywhere. The passage of scripture I quoted at the beginning of this blog entry is one of many famous passages of scripture about a person receiving a visit from an Angel. This particular angelic visit changed history, as it probably saved the life of the young Jesus. It also raises some interesting questions about the nature of Messenger-Angels. After Joseph takes his young son and wife to Egypt, Herod has his soldiers kill all the boys in the area who are roughly the age that he thinks Jesus would be. According to estimates of population in the area at the time, that amounts to about eighteen children killed, which is a pretty awful massacre. Why didn't the angels warn those fathers about the pending danger? Or did angels warn them as well, but for some reason they couldn't hear or understand the warning, or maybe they just ignored it? Scripture is silent on this question, and we will never know.
People who claim a special ability to see angels claim they are pretty much everywhere all the time, as depicted in the German indie movie "Wings of Desire."   (If you've never seen it, the film is more like a long visual poem than a traditional movie, but it contains many beautiful and interesting and even humorous ideas about angels and humanity and the interplay between the two. I didn't love the movie while I was watching it, but almost fifteen years after I first saw it I still think about the ideas and images in it.) Angels also appear in more popular films, such as "It's a Wonderful Life," which is one of my favorites. 
What do I think about angels? I guess that's a complicated question. People who have come through rough times in their lives have told me they feel that angels watched over them and sometimes guided them to safety while all the terrible things they went through unfolded.  When I was younger I was often skeptical about these statements. I thought, if an angel was watching over you, surely they would have told you in no uncertain terms to just dump your abusive husband and get on with your life. Now I see things differently. Angels seem to speak very gently and quietly, and modern people, either by habit or inclination, don't seem to listen for them or to them much at all.
What if we took some time every day to consciously look and listen for Angels? We wouldn't need to change our beliefs at all to open our hearts and minds a tiny bit and just listen. Would it change anything for us? Would we start making different decisions, and start making decisions differently? I think it's a good question for us to ask ourselves.

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