December Reflections 6: angel


Nobody gets angels right, particularly around Christmas. No six year old in glittery tulle wings, not this vision in her plastic farthingale, not even Michael Sheen’s Aziraphale, manages to convey the sheer awesomeness of a creature whose first words are very often, ‘Do not be afraid’. Which implies that they are, in fact, something to be afraid of.

Which is something that has been said many times before by many other people. So I won’t labour the point further, or mutter for very long about how the belief that angels are what our deceased loved ones become misses some important points about what it is to be human. (In fact, that’s the thing about all the portrayals of angels I mentioned in the first paragraph: they’re very, very, human.)

Angels in disguise are another matter, of course. If I ever met any, they were carrying umbrellas. (Incidentally, I read somewhere that P. L. Travers thought of Mary Poppins – her Mary Poppins, the mystical, supernatural being of the later books, not Disney’s instrument of 1950s conformity – as one of the archangels. Which makes sense. Benevolent, but still terrifying.)

Angels bring news, instructions. Sometimes you see them in stained glass windows or nativity sets carrying neat little banners saying Gloria in excelsis Deo or Peace on earth, goodwill to all. I’ve been listening out for messages this year. Some of them I haven’t liked at all. Others have not been exactly clear. I have learned over and over again that I am not as good at communicating as I think I am, that I operate on assumptions that turn out to be incorrect. I am trying to keep on listening.

Early in the year, I demanded a neon sign. The next neon sign that I saw read:

Started at the bottom.

Now you’re here.

Which is certainly true as far as it goes. The question is, where exactly is here?

I will keep my ears open. And my eyes.

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