“You’re an angel!”. These are the words we sometimes say and sometimes hear when something lovely is done. It’s a way of saying “thankyou”. It might also be a way of saying we’ve seen God at work and received a blessing because angels are God’s workers and messengers. We hear about angels quite a lot in the Christmas story, and it would be hard to tell the story without them. It is an angel who sets everything going with Mary. It is an angel who tells Joseph in a dream not to be afraid when he wonders what to do with the news Mary has given him about the child she is carrying. It is an angel who tells the shepherds what is happening and a whole crowd of angels who sing “Glory to God, and peace on earth” as the shepherds take in the message they have been given. At Christmas we sing about angels time and again – they are as much a part of the Christmas story as turkey and stuffing are a part of many Christmas dinners! So this week I’m thinking about angels and wondering what angels are about in our world today.
The thing is it’s hard to hear the angels sing when everyone is fighting, but what strikes me is that when Jesus was born it was hard to hear the angels then as well. When we look at the pictures of the nativity it is usually a very calm and peaceful scene. We sing “Silent, night, holy night, all is calm…”. The reality though is that Jesus was born into such a difficult time. A time of conflict and struggle. The land was occupied by a brutal regime. When the Roman’s said “jump”, you replied “how high?”. Infant mortality was too common and if you made it to adulthood life expectancy was short. Religious leaders oppressed people with harsh teachings. Women and children had no voice and no power. Poverty was rife. Education was very limited. And there was no sense of health care! Life was far from the safe calm gentle image of so many of our Christmas cards. The Christmas story isn’t an escape from reality, it is about God into reality and into reality, then and now, we have angels proclaiming: “glory to God and peace on earth!” and it isn’t just a pipe dream.
The stories in our news are terrible and into that news this week I heard the voice of an angel. Yonatan Ziegen’s mother, Vivien Silver (pictured), was killed by Hamas in the attacks on 7th October. She lived in one of the Kibbutz on the border between Palestine and Israel and was a well-known for her campaigning in Israel for peace and the acceptance of Palestine as a neighbour. After the attack Yonatan travelled to the place where his mother had lived in the hope of finding her alive, and when he discovered she was dead he gave up his job as a social worker to become a full-time peace campaigner. He said: “we can choose to act differently and then when we act differently, we get different results.” He believes in peace and believes that the horror of the war will bring people to realise that peace is the only answer. He said that people are now talking about peace when they did not before, because they know now how terrible war is. War has brought them to their senses. The heat of war can produce changes that seem impossible, old enemies can decide that only peace can protect them. Yonatan says, “I think we should say out loud what we want to happen – talk about what it looks like and what we are willing to give or concede in order for that to happen”.
Peace is something that we can choose, even in the midst of war. Vivian was an angel and Yonatan is an angel, speaking a message into a broken world. An angel bringing a message of what God is doing, even when we think it’s impossible. It was a tough world that Jesus was born into, and it is a tough world that we live in now. But in such a world God is at work, and if we listen, we will hear the angels telling us this truth.
May we all choose to make the peace we long for in our communities and world this week.
If you want to talk about anything please leave us a message and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. Rev Anne