Angels give us details that warm our hearts and strengthen our faith.
Last year as we approached Christmas, I was discussing angels with a group of fourth graders. Several kids wondered about the purpose of angels—why did God create them and what was their mission here on earth?
Rather than speculate, I decided to demonstrate! I suggested they read the entire story of Christ’s birth, but eliminate every reference to angels. Then, if they desired, they could go back to the beginning of the story and read it the way it was written—angels added.
The kids were surprised. Few had realized, for example, that Joseph had never seen a real angel, but on four separate occasions, he had dreamed of one. (The Magi also based their route home on a dream.) The messages must have been compelling, since Joseph obeyed the angel each time, uprooting his entire life and starting over. Why was he so trusting? Was it because an angel brought the news? How else could he have received information?
The children were aware of the Annunciation, when Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary, but they hadn’t noticed that Gabriel also gave directions to Zachariah, Mary’s cousin’s husband, in the temple. Zachariah argued with the angel (can you imagine?) and was disciplined for his lack of faith. Could the children imagine debating with one of God’s holy spirits?
A truly awesome scene occurs when the shepherds see an angel in the sky announcing the birth of the King, and then surrounded by a “multitude of heavenly angels” singing and praising! These lowly men were so impressed that they actually left their sheep, their income, and hurried to the blessed site. There is a clue here—the angels celebrated the birth, but then pointed to the stable, and disappeared. The real story—the meaning of everything—is in that stable.
Perhaps we really don’t need angels as we journey. But they give us details that warm our hearts and strengthen our faith.