Each year I find myself reflecting upon a different aspect of the Christmas story. There is something emotional and honest about this exercise. It helps me to engage with the wonder and mystery of the incarnation at a personal level, before I find myself caught up in the busyness of the life of a minister at Christmas. Unless I make space for my own personal encounter with the story once more, I simply find myself going through the motions dis-engaged from the emotion and intimacy of what it truly means to believe in Emmanuel – God is with us.
This year for instance I’ve started to think about the mystery and wonder of angels as messengers of God. The story is drawing me back into my childhood into considering afresh the idea that there is much more to our lives than meets the eye. Memories of childhood can shape meaning for the present.
My memory invites me to go beyond the Christmas colours of green and red and gold, of Christmas lights and tinsel and the smell of pines and a coal fire burning in my grandmother’s kitchen; and think beyond the physical things that represent Christmas to that which is spiritual and other worldly.
Recently I found myself thinking on another set of colours. An old arm chair that sat in my grandmother’s kitchen. She had covered it with cotton material that had a light blue background with a pink roses print. This was the chair she knelt down beside every night and said her prayers. And this was the chair from which she looked up and saw an angel. She told me at that moment she knew without a doubt God was with her.
I think there are more angel stories shared among trusted friends than many of us might care to believe. While sharing with a friend that I was reflecting upon angels this Christmas he proceeds to tell me how he believes he met an angel while locking up the church very early one Christmas morning after the watchnight service. He believes the angel came to say ,” God is with You.” So, what was the angel like? “ I asked, “how was she/he dressed?” Oh, he said, “ for summer but other worldly”
As I reflect on these stories and possibilities I find myself looking forward to the material that will be emerging from Sanctuary First this Christmas. This time of personal reflection has helped create the theme for December ‘The Unexpected Visitor’ and with it the expectation that I may well have a few unexpected visitors come into the Sanctuary First App and website. And who knows perhaps even an angel may leave a message .
Regardless how the Christmas celebrations and planning goes for us all the story is continually pointing each of us to that which is outwith our imagining but within our grasp, Emmanuel – God with us. In ministry we need never be alone , unexpected visitors turn up regularly, as for angels, sometimes just sometimes God gives us eyes to see them.