Looking out at Christmas lights scintillating in the early morning darkness I felt the presence of angels. I knew where they were by the breath they had just taken in, no doubt to trumpet something like “be not afraid” or “I bring you glad tidings.”
My stomach clenched. “Hold that thought,” I whispered to them.
They had been with me, these angels, throughout the Advent season. Early in December I had prayed. I had asked what my discipline ought to be that year for this time of waiting and watching, of honoring formlessness and unknowing. I had thought it would be something serious and instructive. Instead I had gotten sparkles, the impression of wings (blue for some reason), and a feeling of joy. It is the season, I had realized, not only of darkness and anticipation, but of the visitations of Gabriel. Angels abound in Advent.
They had impressed upon me, as I read Julian of Norwich, two mind-boggling miracles. The first had been that the nature of God is Love. The love of God is ardent, passionate, forever giving and continuously sacrificing. We are servants who have gone out to do God’s bidding, and God wants us home.
The second insight had been related. The forgiveness of God is absolute. When we are finally ready to turn away from whatever behaviors or cravings obsess us and turn back to God, God welcomes us without recrimination and without a tally of wrongdoing. It is as Julian of Norwich discovered: “Sin is no thing.”
Now in the midwinter darkness, I held my breath. There was more the angels had to tell me. And once it was said, there would be no unknowing of it.
Finally I let go the breath I had been holding. “All right,” I said to the waiting midnight.
Sure enough, the angels were right there. “Behold,” they shouted thunderously, ripping the fabric of creation in their elation. And I saw a little brown baby lying in straw. This tiny creature–blind, crying, grasping–is, indeed, the angels told me, God most high.
God pours God’s very self into the narrow, cramped form of a human being so that I–and you–will find our way home to our Beloved. This is God’s greatest sacrifice, to be born.
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and a writer living in Fort Collins, Colorado. She writes for The Episcopal Cafe and is active in lay leadership in her parish, St. Paul’s. For more information and to see a bit of her work, please visit everydaymysteries.com.