Angels I Have Heard on High

Editor’s Word: This essay initially appeared on December 23, 2014.

I hear the angels, excessive within the hills. Up among the many timber, the ponderosa pine and Black Hills spruce. Down by means of the snow-patched meadows, the counterpanes of brush and rock and lengthy stems of chilly, brown grass, forlorn above the ice. I hear the angel voices within the overtones of the wind by means of the buffalo gaps. I hear them alongside the frozen streambeds winding by means of the needles, down from the mountains. I hear them proclaiming the appearance of the Lord.

In a way, after all, to speak of angels within the wind is solely to assemble an allegory. It’s a method of claiming that, if we’re keen to be reminded, even the sound of the wind could make us consider the primary Christmas, when the angels spoke to shepherds outdoors Bethlehem. Our days are thick with such reminders, if we listen; our lives stuffed with events for remembrance. Assume simply of the seasons: The world is witness. It whispers holy issues / of nature fallen and new grace that springs. So why not hear slightly little bit of Christmas within the wind? The extra we’re keen to be prompted, the extra this world appears redolent of the divine—even our senses overwhelmed. Our daylight ideas. Our numinous desires.

And amen to that pious prayer. Sure, all the time sure, to cries for recollection of the Christmas story. I love the Santas with their bells, the Salvation Military’s name to charity on the sidewalks of America’s cities. I love the shops with sweet canes and sleigh bells soaped on their home windows. I love even the Muzaked carols within the elevators, and the municipal timber, and the oversweet candies from the neighbors, and the fruit cake like depleted uranium, and the schoolchildren’s nativity performs, and the Introduction calendars, and the journeys to the Meals Financial institution, and the season’s goose. For Christ’s sake, why not be blissful? A lot round us shouts reminders of the trigger for Christmas pleasure.

However I additionally imply one thing greater than allegory right here. One thing greater than pious metaphor and the acquainted cheer of the season. I imply that celestial sounds had been genuinely flowing down throughout a snowy area, just some days in the past. I imply that this December, right here within the Black Hills of South Dakota, up within the highest registers of listening to, the clamor of heavenly voices actually could possibly be heard. I imply that the precise angels had been truly right here, truly singing tidings of nice pleasure, and I truly heard them. I was not simply reminded of the Bible tales of angels coming to Zacharias, to Mary—to shepherds, singing, “Glory to God within the highest, and good will towards males.” I was allowed to know, for a second, slightly of the nice secret: The supernatural presses on the extraordinary universe, straining to interrupt by means of, and for a second the world was modified. Charged. Made totally different, unusual, and new.

I suppose some obscure instinct of that secret is why I have all the time liked Christmas. That is the explanation to embrace the insanity of the vacation. The rationale to give up to the thousand crèches, the lighted decorations, the secular reindeer, the commercialized gift-giving.

Are they ideally suited? No, however little on earth is, and the virtually medieval-like pageant of contemporary Christmas serves, not less than, to skinny the barrier between this world and the subsequent. The sappiest of Christmas carols have their goal; the gooiest of Christmas films have their level. I admire the theological density of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” however I can joyously (and tunelessly) howl together with the absurdity of “The Little Drummer Boy” and discover tears in my eyes listening to “I Noticed Three Ships.” Even the manic silliness and sentimentality of the season work to God’s intention. Within the emotional storm and the blizzard of Christmas symbols, we open the little mystic gaps by means of which the angels slip.

A sinner—corrupt and soulsick, heartsore and muddled in my ideas—I typically surprise what this world seems to be prefer to the saints. The universe should glow, day-after-day a vacation, a holy day, just like the blinding daylight off clear snow and sharp swirls of glowing ice. However it wants no particular person grace, no particular sanctity, to really feel the lifetime of the Christmas season. Parts of the wall are tumbling down, and thru the breaches anybody can discern a few of what we ordinarily preserve hidden from ourselves: Christ himself within the faces of the poor and battered. The treasures that charity lays up in heaven. The additional-worldly great thing about nature. The enjoyment of creation within the objects throughout us. The just about sacramentality of all the things actual.

This December, I heard the angels singing. Truly heard their voices excessive within the wind, throughout a western meadow frozen stiff and lined with the fallen snow. Hear, and also you’ll hear them, too—down from the hills and the chilly timber, ponderosa pine and Black Hills spruce. Alongside the icy streambed, by means of the comb, and over the rocks. All these voices caroling, praising, rejoicing: a swirl of pleasure past all deserving. Simply pay attention, and also you’ll hear the angels, too.

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