Friday, December 20, 2013

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host...

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to all, on whom God's favor rests."*

That might be my favorite verse in the Christmas story, because of what I think is going on there.  (As with many of the thoughts I've written and will write down, I have every confidence that it's been said before, but I don't know where and I don't believe I've heard anyone else express it.)

Somehow the following is in my head:
1) That there are pretty strict regulations governing the behavior of angels, such that they're pretty much forbidden from doing things in the world that would make their presence evident.**  Except on assignment, and assignments are very rare.
2) That I got that idea from Madeleine L'Engle. I read books by her so long ago that I wouldn't know how to begin to track it down (besides re-reading everything I think I once read), but that's how I think of it: there are rules, like Madeleine L'Engle says.

So here's what I think is going on in the fields by night: a judgement was made that some shepherds would be a good group to announce the incarnation to, in keeping with the overall mission of bringing good news to the meek and lowly, and an angel was dispatched to deliver the message. That angel was So. Excited. to be picked. The other angels, to the extent possible, were bummed not to be. But also So. Excited. because, you know, the incarnation. The biggest deal in ever (to date).

So they tagged along just to watch. The designated emissary made the announcement, complete with standard attempt to calm the highly freaked out audience, and then somebody slipped. Maybe the angelic equivalent of an involuntary squeal of excitement. Probably that. Probably not an actual decision to talk out of turn. But once the silence was broken, nobody could hold back. Total angelic pandemonium as everybody gave voice to their overwhelming excitement about what was going on.

Hopefully nobody got in trouble. Seems like it would be hard to get too angry about something like that, under the circumstances.

*That's Luke 2:13-14. Pretty presumptuous of me to decide, after looking at a few different translations, to start from the NIV but tweak it to my liking. But that's what I did.

**Obviously that implies that I believe in angels. I don't have any particularly strong thoughts on that question, actually. They can each claim their own pin, or they can all dance on one pinhead at once if they don't feel it cramps their style. Though now that I've said that, I guess aside from generally being fine with the traditional portrayal, I think of angels as having less agency and possibly less psychological depth than humans.

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