St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Christmas Eve 2014
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!.
Did you ever have that funny feeling that someone was staring at you?
Well, I have it now -- and I don't mean you -- I mean her.
At least I think it's a her.
It's this angel that our mischievous altar guild positioned
to have its eyes trained on me.
I'm not sure if it's intended as rapt attention or just keeping tabs,
but either way I appreciate the company.
You've got some company out there too.
We have a veritable heavenly host here tonight,
all hand-made by our own June Lape --
each angel with its own embroidered face, unique personality,
reflecting various ethnic backgrounds and skin tones.
I hope you can at least get a sense from your vantage point
that these angels look like us --
not just those of us who happen to be gathered here tonight,
but us as in all people, all of humanity.
They look like us except, well, maybe cuter.
Almost as cute as the truly adorable angels in our pageant earlier this evening.
The angels in tonight's gospel lesson don't seem cute at all,
but rather fierce.
Have you ever noticed that Biblical angels begin most encounters
saying, "Do not be afraid"?
Look at their interaction with the poor shepherds
(and I do mean poor in every sense of the word).
The shepherds are out in the fields going about their business --
and dirty business it is.
Although we've gotten a romanticized image of shepherds
over the years,
a shepherd at that time might've qualified for an ancient version
of the TV show, "Dirty Jobs".
Shepherding was often ritually unclean
because it required that you work on the Sabbath.
And yet it is to these folks that the angels appear.
First the one angel -- proclaiming great joy for all people (even shepherds),
and then a multitude.
Notice that, unlike most pageants,
these angels don't hover over the manger.
They're not hanging out with Mary, Joseph or the Child,
but out in the fields with the shepherds.
They're busy doing what angels do:
Delivering a message.
Delivering the great good news that God in Christ is with us
whoever we are, wherever we are.
I don't know what June had in mind when she spent all that time
making these angels for us.
But I do know that I'm getting a message loud and clear.
And that is, that we are angels.
Yes, us -- angels.
Not angelic or perfect, mind you.
Not about polishing our halos.
But about spreading the great good news
of God's power and presence,
especially in those dirty or difficult or hopeless places that need it most.
Amid the simmering racial tensions in our country,
we bear a message of reconciliation.
With those missing a loved one around their Christmas tree this year,
we bear a message of comfort.
To those who find it hard to believe that Emmanuel, God-is-with-us,
or who fear that God-is-with everyone but them,
we bear a message of hope.
And for ourselves in moments of fear or despair?
We bear the gift of each other --
for angels rarely travel alone
before they are joined by a multitude of heavenly host.
With angelic host proclaim
Christ is born in Bethlehem ...
and in Wallingford, and each of our homes and hearts,
and anywhere -- anywhere -- that could use some of that
good news of great joy for all people.
Thanks be to God.