Saturday, 26 November 2011

of angels, yearning and hope

I have been sitting with the theme of angels for our Advent and Christmas gatherings at Belair for some time. This week, I had to move from the vague images and feelings to something concrete to share in a reflection on the Sacred Story for the worship gathering tomorrow, Advent 1. We've got our angels made by the youth arriving in the church tomorrow, being hung to wait with us through this holy and sacred season. It is their drawing explorations that led us to invite angels to be the dominant image for our reflections through Advent in particular, and I am very grateful. I am tingling with anticipation at the possibilities for engaging with the stories from the Bible and our lives in coming weeks that this invitation is opening up.
This week I have heard some angel stories from people in my congregation, that have brought me to tears in their beauty, mystery and sacred wonder. And as these stories moved within my imagination, I began to find my way to the reflection I have to write for tomorrow.
Late yesterday afternoon, I could feel the ideas floating just out of reach of my consciousness - it usually takes a fair amount of distraction and procrastination before I can catch the thoughts for any piece of writing. But I have learnt to trust the process, and when I the words are eluding me, I go do something else. Yesterday afternoon, then, I came home and ate birthday cake with my sisters, then went to the chiropractor. I had been pondering the angel stories of others, and thinking, with some disappointment, that I didn't have an angel story. Then, as I was lying on the table at the chiropractor studio, I remembered.
And the opening to my reflection for tomorrow wrote itself on my way home. As it does.

A man has been doubting, questioning, the story of God. He encounters an image of an angel, and is drawn to it, inspired to reach out – God, if you are here, send me an angel.
The angel appears – tell the rest of that. And after he tells this story to a friend, four more angels are given to him, and he knows the presence of God with him still.

A 16 year old girl is travelling alone across Europe, a long way from her home Down Under. As she falls asleep one night, she senses the presence of two centurions, come to protect her. They accompany her all the way from Germany to England, where she meets her mother. Back home, as she tells of the experience, her dad says – oh, yes, those are my angels. He had sent them to take care of his daughter.

A 19 year old woman is sitting in the kitchen, desperate to end the pain of her depression. She is so desperate in her longing for an end, that she has begun to see only one way – to stop living. But as she runs through the options for this course of action in her mind – wrists, alcoholic stupor, driving her car into a tree – she finds she can not move from her seat, until eventually she decides to go to bed, and cries herself to sleep. Years later, looking back, she thinks she can see angels with her on that long dark night, holding her tight, holding her safe, God’s messengers of love and care an answer to her longing. 

I have always known God's presence with me - and tomorrow, we will consider what difference it makes to know God is present with us in our yearning for home, our longing for hope - what difference it makes to our responses to oppression, disempowerment, violence and despair. 

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