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PostChristmas Angels (David Duggan, USA, 12/24/14 8:57 pm)
The Festival of Lessons and Carols at King's College, Cambridge has just concluded, broadcast from my classical music station, WFMT in Chicago. It is just past 3 pm GMT as I write, and darkness is setting in over England, as it will in seven hours on the shores of Lake Michigan. I have spent part of my Christmas Eve observances reading of the sacrifices of my Dartmouth College forbears during World War II. Ninety-one percent of the 673 students who matriculated with the class of 1942 served in that conflict, and 33 of them did not live to see Christmas 1945. My own father spent four Christmases away from his family, yet survived to see 62 feasts of the Incarnation surrounded by those who loved him (including another two in service to his country).
Whether he or anyone else had a guardian angel keeping him from harm's way, I have no idea. But angels have a specific role and meaning in the Gospel message of the day. Years ago I wrote an essay, now republished in my book, Glimpses of Grace, Reflections of a Life in Christ, about the angels of my life. It is set out below:
The Angels of Our Lives
Christmas is a time when we think of angels: Gabriel, who announced Jesus' birth to Mary; the angel who told Joseph not to fear that his betrothed had conceived of the Holy Spirit; the angels who greeted the shepherds with news of Jesus' birth. Lately, I've been thinking of the angels of my life. Not the sort with wings and halos and harps of gold, but those people who have come into my life at just the right moment with a message that I needed to hear, and have even, occasionally, heeded.
In the early 1980s, when I was a young lawyer in New York struggling for material success and professional recognition, the first woman priest I ever heard preach said that my path was not that of the Christian. Telling how Gideon, the Old Testament leader who humbled himself before God and still won a decisive battle over the Midianites, stood in stark contrast to the then-prevailing view that America was back after a decade of malaise, this priest said that those who would be first must be last. Hit between the eyes with the falsity of my life, I have haltingly followed the path of humility since.
Several years later, still wondering if Jesus' indictment of lawyers was directed at me, I unburdened myself to a complete stranger leading a men's retreat. With the clarity that comes only from truth, he said: "I can think of no one who is more concerned about justice than God." Since then, I have devoted much of my life to representing the poor when the Government seeks to lock them up and throw away the key. Then there was the designer-clad tennis player who told me many years ago during the maelstrom of law school final exams that I would be a worthy opponent for his own lawyer. He introduced me to the man who has become my best friend, the older brother I never had, the selfless mentor of my career, and the guardian of the secrets of my heart as we still talk during rests on the tennis court. And finally, there was the young widow who, after losing her husband of 20 years, and at a time when I felt that I was not worthy of love, told me that she loved me.
These angels came with a message and a choice. I could hear the message and follow it, or I could ignore it. Perhaps too often I have ignored the messages of angels, but these times, I stopped to listen. These voices of my life have supported and sustained me, guided and guarded me on my walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
As you hear the stories of the angels of Christmas this year, listen to the voices of the angels of your life. You may be surprised at how close you are to God.
On this 2018th (or so) remembrance of the Nativity, and centennial of the Christmas Truce during the Great War, let us recall the words that the angels spoke to the shepherds: "Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth, peace, good will towards men."
JE comments: Beautifully said, David. At this moment it is nearly midnight back home in Michigan, and 11 PM on Christmas Eve for David Duggan in Chicago and the half-dozen guests in this Silao airport hotel. In Europe Christmas morning has almost arrived. Yet the Christmas spirit is everywhere.
Joy to WAISworld.