I don't remember making Christmas cookies when I was a little girl (although I'm sure I did), but I do remember making them with my children. And amidst the gingerbread men, the Christmas trees, reindeer, snowmen, and other cutouts there were always the angels, and we would decorate them with white icing and colored candy sprinkles.
Then there was the Christmas tree. Lights came first (always done by Dad(s)) and then hanging the ornaments (every year we 4 kids would be able to hang them a little higher so that they weren't all clustered at the bottom of the tree), and then the tinsel. In those days we had the tinfoil kind of tinsel and would wear our socks and scuff across the floor to touch it and get a "shock". But hanging tinsel was a bore - dad wanted us to carefully hang it over a branch one strand at a time. When he left the room we would throw it and couldn't figure out how he knew. But one last thing. At the top of the tree we always put a star, or an angel. Then the lights would be turned on - WOW! Breathtaking. It was the best part!
One of the great traditions I like and began with my children, was reading The Night Before Christmas and then The Christmas Story from the Bible as told by Luke to them on Christmas Eve. I love the blending of the traditions with the original true meaning of Christmas. As a matter of fact, one of my favorite pieces I bring out every year is a wooden Santa Claus kneeling at the manger of the Baby Jesus.
So back to angels. I never thought really about their significance much until this morning. I was reading the Christmas story in Luke. The angel Gabriel was sent by God to tell Mary she would bear the son of God and name him Jesus. Angels came to the Shepherds in the field outside Bethlehem to tell them of the baby's birth. They were messengers. And guess what? Nobody questioned the truth of what they said. As a matter of fact, when the angels left, the shepherds said to each other, "Come on! Let's go to Bethlehem! Let's see this wonderful thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." When they told the others there about the angels, they expressed astonishment, not disbelief. But there was great rejoicing and singing and praising going on. Naive? Nope. Unbridled belief and faith in what they could not imagine humanly.
I suppose I always "knew" the connections and the stories of angels in the Bible and the prayers I pray for others, asking God to wrap his angels around them. I see the angels in traditions, and have seen them in lives of those around me as they are "sent" by God for protection, comfort, or peace, and yes, the symbolism of the angel on the Christmas tree and cookies and snow angels. But this year it has a deeper meaning for me. They are in the forefront of my mind this Christmas. I see them gently floating above my precious grandchildren as they go to sleep Christmas Eve, with visions of sugar plum fairies dancing in their heads, eagerly awaiting the sound of little deer hooves on the roof. And I see them in the lives of those dear parents, grandparents and famillies of the children lost in Connecticut and around the world, gently folding them in their wings.
My prayer is that I will be open to seeing the angels that are sent to me as God's messengers to guide me through this life on earth. I am counting on it. Expecting it.
Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Glory to the Newborn King
Peace on Earth, and mercy mild
God and Sinners reconciled.