They arrived at 10:30 p.m., which is a bit late for guests. I opened the door and a gust of chill winter wind swept through the entryway. Somewhat self-consciously, I read a prepared speech: “Hello and welcome archangels to our home.”
My husband shook his head and the cat slipped out through the partially opened door. After herding Milo back inside, I found myself at a loss. I’ve never spoken to one angel before, let alone hosted five of them.
A few weeks prior, I’d received a note from my friend Beth asking if I’d host five archangels for five days. In return the angels would grant me three wishes, one for the world, one for my family and one for myself. “So, are they breakable?” I asked, picturing the havoc my boys could wreak on porcelain or pottery figurines.
“No,” she replied.
“Um. Are we talking about invisible beings?” “Well,” said Beth. “I think Raphael is smiling right, now.”
Beth is an attorney and an author, and I haven’t noticed any worrying signs of mental confusion. But our conversation had taken on a surreal tone.
“So, am I going to have to feed them or anything?” I asked. “This a really busy time of year.”
“No,” she said. “They’re great houseguests, only … ”
“You might not sleep much. I’ve had some amazing dreams, while they were here, and I’m writing like crazy.”
Alas, while I do believe that angels are heavenly beings created to do God’s work on Earth, that’s the extent of my belief. I’m more skeptic than mystic. My mind gets bogged down by details. For instance, how could these angels be at my house and at three other friend’s homes simultaneously? And why do I need to leave a candle burning while they’re here? Are they afraid of the dark? And what’s the significance of the apple I was to place beside the lit candle?
Beth had no answers. “Just try it and see what happens,” she said.
Which brings me back to that cold winter evening and my welcoming speech. When I accept a responsibility, I follow through. I dutifully transcribed my three wishes and sealed them in an envelope which I placed next to a battery-operated candle (oh me of little faith – I didn’t want to run the risk of a fire).
And then. Well then, I promptly forgot all about my heavenly guests. Football season was winding down, concert season gearing up, and I took on extra work in anticipation of Christmas spending. I didn’t ask the angels any questions throughout the day, and at night I slept the dreamless sleep of the perpetually exhausted.
Before I knew it, five days had passed and it was time for me to send the angels on their way. I told Beth, “I really suck at mysticism.”
At 10:30 on the designated night, I opened the door, thanked the angels for their presence and sent them on to three friends who’d agreed to host them.
I admit I was disappointed and a bit embarrassed by my failure to experience any kind of mystical happening.
But after pondering examples of angelic visitations in the Bible, I felt relieved instead of disappointed. An angel appeared to Mary and told her she was pregnant. One appeared to Joseph and told him to move his family to Egypt. And Jacob wrestled with one and walked with a limp for the rest of his life as a result. Perhaps angelic silence isn’t such a bad thing.
And honestly, even if the angels did have a message for me, would I have heard it? I’m guilty of keeping my nose pressed to the grindstone as I move from task to task. I’m a slave to checklists and deadlines. There’s not a lot of room in my schedule for mystery, for awe, for the awareness of bigger things outside my sphere.
What struck me most about these biblical accounts is that the angels showed up unexpected and uninvited. They appeared to busy, distracted people just like me.
For instance, two thousand years ago, a group of shepherds were hard at work. Yet as they kept watch over their flocks at night, “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.”
No ritual. No prepared welcome. Instead, a multitude of heavenly hosts showed up, right at their job site. And perhaps the words they delivered so long ago are the only angelic message I need: “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today, in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you …’ ”