The Joy of the Angels

This year we are again involved in the Rushmoor Christmas Angels project; as a church we will have knitted and will be distributing over 600 angels around the parish for younger children to find on their way home from school. Each angel is a unique creation, but each bears a simple Christmas message to remind the children and their families that at Christmas we celebrate the Birthday of Jesus. This is of course the joy of the angels and the message they carry; they are God’s messengers and very much part of the Christmas story. It is the Archangel Gabriel who tells Mary that she is going to be mother of a very special child – she has to say ‘yes’ first, then 9 months later we find ourselves in a stable in Bethlehem. Nearby are the shepherds who are watching their flocks, and again the angels are there, a whole host of them, telling of the Birth of the Saviour and directing the shepherds to go and see for themselves. In a sense the Rushmoor angels are doing the same, they are pointing us and our children towards that same event, inviting us to take a step back during the festive season and remind ourselves that God sent his Son, Jesus, into the world as a sign that God is indeed with us and wants to save humankind from sin and death. This is ‘the joy of the angels’ and the message they proclaim – that ‘the word was made flesh and dwelt among us.’

This is ‘the truth sent from above’ as one traditional carol puts it, a truth that counteracts the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden and speaks to our present human condition. A truth that works through God’s saving love, and, as that same carol concludes, if we find it ‘we are sure to have eternal bliss.’ It may all sound a bit like a fairy tale with a ’happy ever after’, and yet quite a few of us still believe it! Looking at the world as it is today, it seems to me that it could do with a very large dose of God’s saving love, and needs to find that ’truth sent above’ more than ever; that’s why Christians need to go on telling the story, the Gospel the Church proclaims!

Pilate asked Jesus ’What is truth?’ ,we live in a world surrounded by untruths, ‘fake news’ some call it, and a populist rhetoric that plays on people’s prejudices and fears. We are developing a political culture around the globe in which the one who shouts loudest prevails, whether there is any truth in what is said doesn’t really matter , neither does there seem any due regard for justice and the fundamental rights to which each and every person is entitled. Globalisation has led to many people being regarded as a bit like a product, useful or otherwise; zero hours contracts in Britain are just the tip of the iceberg! Countries where citizens feel powerless, helpless even, and whose voice is not heard by those who seem to wield great power. Indeed great power seems to have replaced what were once great institutions, ranging from the judiciary through to a free press. With power we often see corruption and that’s when truth becomes even more important and where it is important for organisations and individuals to speak up. There is a phrase in current use ‘truth speaks to power’; truth if it is genuine, will always throw a very bright spotlight onto those in power who feel comfortable and content with themselves because they think people believe their ‘truth’. Real truth, the kind of ‘truth that comes from above’ will always, to use a gaming phrase, ‘trump’ power, and indeed out-trump some of the vain attempts that we have seen, in recent weeks, to cover up various abuses of power, whether that be the cold blooded murder of a political critic or the silencing of the press by the rich and famous!

As we approach Christmas let us all hope and pray for a better world, a world where each person lives in peace and harmony with their neighbour and where everyone has enough to eat and a decent home to live in. May we all strive after the truth and share in the joy of the angels as we hear the words of their message once again,

‘Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace to all people of goodwill.’

Your friend and priest,

Father Keith