One of the articles I read with my Spanish conversation teacher this week was about angels. It was a pretty strange article; I think it was trying to be balanced and provide a variety of perspectives, but the final effect (to me) was sort of incoherent and unresolved. The author talked with four of five people about angels. At least two of the interviewees (if my Spanish reading comprehension skills did not let me down) were "angelologists" (both ladies) They also interviewed a Catholic priest and an evangelical pastor (both men). So there were a variety of perspectives on what angels are like and to what extent people interact with them. At least one of the angelologists offers courses to help people connect with their own personal angels, and had opinions about the colors, odors, and types of music that can be used to help attract angels. It all sounded a bit loopy to me-- both the priest and the pastor seemed to be laughing at the ideas that the angelologists espoused.
My instructor did point out, when we were discussing the topic, that angels don't really show up in the New Testament, except around the birth of Jesus and the book of Revelation (and she did not seem to think too highly of the book of Revelation).
But I was thinking about the basic meaning of angel, a "messenger" (often, of God). And yes, some shiny, possibly winged, airborne, singing angels show up in the Christmas story. (And they sure do look pretty in the Christmas pageant.) But I finally got around to reading the lectionary readings for this coming Sunday. And it occurs to me that John the Baptist, with his message of repentance, like all the prophets, is also an angel. It's harder to hear the message "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near" (especially when John gets to shouting about the "brood of vipers") than "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy." But that is a message of God, as well. I like to talk about how repentance has as its root the idea of turning, changing direction. "Turn around, the kingdom of God has come near." Shift your attention. Look at what's important. See how God's kingdom has come near.
In my conversation class, we also talked about the very popular cartoon image of a miniature "good angel" and "bad angel" sitting on someone's shoulders and encouraging good or bad behavior. This is what we mean (I think) when we talk about "listening to our better angels." The world is so full of messages and messengers -- and it is up to us to discern which ones to listen to, to pay attention to.
So, here's a bit of confession. While I was "trying to think of something to write about" this evening, I spent a lot of time doing online window-shopping, thinking about Stuff for myself and my friends and family. I did say in my first Advent post that one of the reasons I wanted to blog through Advent was because I felt myself getting pulled in by the commercial, materialistic bits of Christmas. So, perhaps the buying-things websites are playing the role of the little red guy with horns in this moment. So I give thanks for my personal "better angels" on the internet: Fidelia's Sisters, the Vanderbilt Divinity Lectionary, and, lately, the Advent Blog Tour. And especially, a song I heard for the first time today from the people behind the SALT project.
And now I will take the advice of my interior "better angels" and get myself to bed.