At this time of the year, we can stumble over angels almost everywhere.  They look at us from shop windows and advertisements, normally as beautiful, winged humanoids dressed in white.  Perhaps we find it hard to believe in supernatural beings.  Nevertheless, in a world where the news bulletins daily remind us of the brutal heaviness of
reality, the image of an angel with its childlike innocence, purity and lightness can bring warmth and solace into our hearts.  Especially at Christmas we like to dream of a better world, a peaceful world, an angelic world.
Angels are mentioned in the biblical Christmas story in Luke, chapter 2.  We hear that an angel appeared to the shepherds bringing the good news of the newborn saviour.  “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.’”
The word “angel” derives from Latin “angelus” which means “messenger”.  And that is precisely the main task of an angel in the Bible: to bring God’s word to the people.  No wonder that the word “angel” is part of the word “evangelist”.  An evangelist is an angel without wings.

The appearance of an angel in the Christmas story proclaiming peace on earth symbolises the coming down of heaven – but where can we see this reality?  Has anything really changed in the world through the birth of Jesus? How can the story of Jesus give us hope when even in his story we are confronted with a harsh reality?  For example, there was no guest room available for his parents.  Mary had to lay her child into a manger, a place for feeding animals and not for babies. And later in his life Jesus faced strong opposition. He was finally tortured to death like the worst criminal.  That is anything but a lovely story.
The birth of Jesus does not mean that anything had changed visibly in this world.  But it changes our vision.  Whereas we tend to look away from all the misery in the world since it is too much to bear, the Christmas story shows us that God does not look away.  He in fact became a human being sharing our vulnerability and weakness.  The almighty and eternal God became a helpless baby, totally dependent on his parents.  He experienced even the deepest despair as the son was forsaken by his own father on the cross, thus taking on him all the dire hopelessness of this world. When there is anything that Christmas teaches us, then it is compassion.  Do not look
away but get involved and mourn with those who mourn.  Christmas day is not a happy day in the sense that we forget everything that makes people sad; it is a happy day because we know that God has seen our situation and that he has come into our situation living our lives.  Since Christmas we know that no place on this earth is godforsaken.
A true angel does not point away from the reality.  On the contrary, as we can see on the painting “the Wounded Angel” by Hugo Simberg, a true angel helps us to open our eyes for the brokenness of the world.  If we really want to follow Jesus on his way to the cross, then we have to accept our own brokenness and weakness.  We are not the
helpers; we are in need of help. But God came in Jesus to save us! Merry Christmas!