Sunday, December 25, 2011

angels, angels everywhere

When I was a little girl, Miss Lucy Wells visited our public school classroom to teach Bible stories once a week. She traveled from class to class toting a large felt board, her gray hair coiled around her head like a braided rug. Miss Wells taught us our Biblical ABCs: All have sin. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. Christ died for our sins. Do all to the glory of God.

And she loved her felt board characters. Adam and Eve, cowering as they were banished from the Garden of Eden. Zaccheus looking down from his tree. Jesus praying in the garden. And angels. Angels everywhere.

Angels keeping watch by night in the lion’s den, sitting beside the open tomb, climbing up and down Jacob’s ladder in his dream. And of course, there was Gabriel, who with his elegant golden wings, shown the brightest of all.

I thought a lot about Gabriel as Christmas approached.  And not simply the glowing felt board figure kneeling by Mary’s side. The Gabriel of the Old Testament was the protector — of Moses and the Israelites as they made their way out of Egypt to the Promised Land. He (or she, as many think), was the interpreter for Daniel, the one who showed him the meaning of his dreamy visions. In the New Testament of course, Gabriel is perhaps at once protector and good news purveyor. Don’t be afraid, he tells Mary. Trust me. Believe me, he tells Zachariah, for your prayer has been heard.

One day recently my friend Nell stood in my office door and said: ‘I’ve been thinking about that Gabriel, but I don’t know much about him.’

So what could we do but Google him? 


Did you know that Gabriel has a blog? And he’s an angel of Hebrew, Christian and Muslim tradition? That in Islam, he was the medium through whom God revealed the Qur’an to Muhammad?

Gabriel’s Wikipedia entry refers to him as the spirit of truth. And though no reference to his horn can be found in the Bible, tradition holds that he will blow his trumpet on the last day to wake the dead. (If you’ve been hearing or using your car horn lately, that’s supposed to mean that Gabriel is trying to get your attention.) Some folks even think Gabriel invented coffee. I’d be willing to bet some kind of angel did.

And this: Gabriel is the patron saint of communicators.

I am a communicator. It’s in my official job title: “Director of Communications.” Though I am no Gabriel, maybe my job is similar to Gabriel’s in God’s corporate work chart. I have long known since I was a child that God gave me this talent to communicate. Through writing, by teaching high school students (and the writers in this book) to communicate a bit of themselves in essays, and through listening. To my friends and my children
and even, sometimes, my husband.

I even communicate in the car. I have, in fact, been using my car horn a lot lately.
Stuck behind drivers who would rather tweet than move through the green light has had me honking like a Manhattan cab driver on more than a few mornings, late on my way into work.

So is Gabriel trying to get my attention?

I wonder what it would be like to be one of God’s favored angels. To have God’s ear — and His message — tucked up inside you, a message that will change a life. Many lives,
in fact, thousands. Millions. It would be hard, it would seem, to stay humble.

And yet my picture of Gabriel is that of a quiet and patient purveyor, who knows the message is so much more powerful than the one who brings it. This Gabriel is not so worried as I am about descriptive phrases or the turn of the right verb. It’s the what of the message that matters more than intonation.

One of my favorite movie scenes comes from the film City of Angels. In the scene, an angel played by Nicholas Cage searches for Meg Ryan’s character in the public library. Angels in top coats line the halls and escalators, taking in the myriad voices of the patrons, each offering up prayers and worries to invisible ears, hoping somehow, someone will hear them — and the angels do.  It is a beautiful idea, each of us with our own private angel who hears our thoughts and prods our dreams. 

I have been a lifelong dreamer, both in my days and in my nights, and I can still remember one or two of my dreams from my Lucy Wells days. Lately, my nightly dreams have been littered with tornados and falling trees, of children lost and found again. And of skies opening up in the midst of chaos to a kaleidoscope of clarity. One treasured friend says these dreams mean I am on the cusp of great change. That has yet to be seen. If only Gabriel would come sit by me and say: I bring good news. Trust me. Don’t be afraid. Your prayer has been heard. Nothing is impossible with God.
— Susan Byrum Rountree


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