personal reflection & growth
"Angel in Our Midst"
by: Edward Naughton
The familiar sounds and images that accompany pre Christmas celebrations awake a somewhat romantic yet hopeful joy in our hearts. The message of the singing angels and The Star that led the Wise Men give a slight nudge to us if not a clear direction to our wandering thoughts and ways. But before and beyond these simple seeming messages there exists a whole history and future of meanings that we so often miss.
Events take place in our lives that we seem to recognize but do not take the time or care to let their significances speak to us. It is easier and more comfortable to let the images and symbols have their place and touch our lives but it takes attention and openness to allow the realities behind them shape our lives. Do we have time and energy for such?
It is quite a few years since I nervously traveled in a car crowded with quiet thoughtful looking men, each fully clothed and nearly hidden in their colorful Arabic dress as we drove the five miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. I did not lose or regain the sight of any star leading us nor was I questioned as to where the birth would be. I was excited to be close to the place itself of the Nativity and yet I was very much alone.
I had no idea what Bethlehem would be like but I didn’t have to seek out a stable since the Basilica before me could not be missed. I wondered about the young woman, Mary, who had said yes to an Archangel and no doubt found strength from the man, Joseph, who was her protection against all who would harm her. I am sure there other angels as well.
As I trod the steps down to the site of the birth I was apprehensive lest it be just another place with the glitter of candles and the aroma of ancient holiness. But there before me was a star, not the guide to the Wise Men but the 14 pointed Star boldly set in the white marble proclaiming This Place - the birthplace of Christ. How could I have anticipated the simplicity and yet the wonder of the moment!
The irony of the scene astounded me then as it does today as I think about peace and the ways we announce peace and struggle to keep peace in our world. There in a sacred place in a Palestinian town, in a Christian place of reverence, sat a young Israeli soldier with weapon ready assigned to keep peace. He and I looked at each other with such different understanding yet with respect as we each knew why we were there. Today I think of all of us, travelers in our world, foreigners and friends, battle weary yet hopeful as we yearn and struggle for peace. It does give us joy to see the light and beauty of the children’s faces as like angels they sing their Alleluias to the child in the Crib. I think their voices call to us to look beyond the images and symbols and let unfold the realities that touch our hearts and reveal to us our deepest desires, our deepest selves.