Angels Singing Somewhere
There were angels, but Mary didn’t see them. There was singing, but Joseph didn’t hear it. There was dazzling light, but neither felt its blaze.
In Nazareth, they had seen the shaming sideways glances, heard the disapproving whispers, and felt the glaring judgment as Mary’s belly swelled. And when they left for Bethlehem, they saw the dusty miles yawn wide, heard the grating gravelly roads and felt the dragging toll of every step. And on arrival in Bethlehem, they saw the crowds crowding them out, heard the disheartening ‘no room at the inn’ and felt the exhausting poverty of earthy stable air.
This young couple, their experience of the first Christmas was so far from the nativity scene version we’ve created. All wasn’t calm. All wasn’t bright. And it probably didn’t feel much like peace on earth.
Mary. Her name means bitterness. And she could have made a bitter list. Listing down all the hardness and the hurt, the disappointments and the drudge. And she could have lived in it. She could have let it live in her.
But her name also has another meaning: beloved. And I wonder if she felt it? As she gave birth to her first child in the dark, breathing in the scent of animal dung and straw? Did she wrestle within her heart between the two meanings of her name, succumbing to bitterness while struggling to feel loved? How could this struggling beginning be part of God’s plan? How could shame and pain and poverty and rejection and no room at the inn, how could this be the setting, the backdrop for the coming of the King of the Universe?
Babies born in Israel took their first breath surrounded by supportive relatives and assisting midwives. Male babies were greeted with music and rejoicing on the off-chance that Israel’s much anticipated Messiah had just entered time and space.
Jesus’ first breath was in an animal stall with no family and only the arms of His teenage mother and bewildered earthly father to hold Him. There is no record of a community chorus heralding His arrival. The true Messiah and King of Israel arrives unseen, into the dank world of poverty and want.
Mary and Joseph, they could have made a bitter list. And lived there. But this list would never have held the truth in wholeness. Their experience was only half the picture.
There were angels singing somewhere. Though they didn’t see them.
There was a song, there was music and rejoicing. There was light. And there was wonder on its way. All that they needed was to hold on a little longer.
‘And there were shepherds living out in the fields near by, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.’
What we see, we see only in part. What we hear is not all there is to hear and know. What we feel is never the whole truth. There is always more. A purpose unfolding quietly. Light breaking into darkness. Shepherds whispering good news. Angels singing somewhere.
Sometimes we need to hold on. Hold on to all the whispered promises and wait it out in the dark. Knowing that, whether we see it, hear it or feel it, hope is with us even when it’s hard. Faith is believing that good news will break through eventually. Wonder on its way. Confidence that even hard things and dark moments will eventually find meaning in God’s long story of love in a life.
‘When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another,
‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.
When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.’
Mary and Joseph. They could have made a bitter list. And lived there. But this list would never have held the truth in wholeness. Their lived experience was only half the picture. As is true with all our human stories.
There is always more. There is always a song. And there is music and rejoicing.
There are always angels singing somewhere.
‘But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.’