Angels play a key role in the unfolding of the story of Christmas. The book of Luke tells us the archangel Gabriel appeared to Zacharias and foretold the birth of his son, John, whose task was to prepare the way for Jesus ministry on earth. Then, Gabriel paid a visit to Mary, letting the teen virgin know she would be the mother of Jesus. Around that same time, Matthew says an angel visited Joseph in a dream to let him know that the pregnancy of his wife-to-be was no disgrace.
Nine months later, angels appeared to shepherds outside Bethlehem and announced the birth of Christ. Another angel later warned Joseph to take his family and flee to Egypt to escape King Herod; the angel returned to Joseph to let him know it was safe to return to Nazareth.
Some 2,000 years later, angels surged in popularity in our culture. Joan Wester Anderson, author of Where Angels Walk and An Angel to Watch Over Me, has reported extensively on the angel phenomenon and says spiritual growth accompanied a rise in reports of encounters with angels in the "90s.
Are some of those encounters phony-baloney spiritualism? Probably. But they also demonstrate a yearning for things that are greater than we are.
Whether it is with trumpeting angels leading the way, or with crying children tugging at our clothes, we all benefit from reminders that there is more to life than the tiny portion of the world around us.
It often is the angels in our midst, Godly people here on earth, who remind us of bigger things that build within our community the spirit of Christmas year-round - people like Bill and Angie Campbell in Grovetown, David Titus in Harlem or Evelyn Browne in Evans, all working to feed the hungry out of a sense that there is a greater good, and that it needs to be fed, too.
Though the secular side of Christmas threatens to drown out its religious significance, for Christians the Christmas season is one of the religions two biggest observances; with Easter, it represents one of the bookends on the earthly life of Jesus, whose birth - and later, his resurrection from death - were announced by angels.
Modern announcements of Christmas may sound more like the ringing of cash registers than the singing of angels. But it is the spirit of good people all around us, fed by love and kindness, that helps us to remember the seasons meaning.
Merry Christmas to all.
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