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And The Angels Sang

Daily Devotional for Wednesday, December 16, 2020 from Rev. Eric Douglass


Luke 2:8-14: And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord”… And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!”

Did you ever wonder what God thinks about humans? I do. All the time. Literally all the time. But I’m an angel and I never sleep.
 
Think with me about the history of humans. They are constantly at war. I can’t remember a time when they aren’t fighting. Now, the other animals on God’s good green earth do fight, but never all the time…and never with such ferocity. And just look at the ingenuity they spend trying to hurt others: they make weapons from trees and stones so that they can kill each other from long distances. Don’t they know that trees are for shade and rocks are for beauty?
 
And don’t get me started about their attitudes. One sees a pretty rock around the neck of another, and is consumed with envy…for a rock! I can’t even grasp why one rock is better than another. A rock is a rock is a rock. It all seems so petty. In the larger universe, a rock just doesn’t count for that much.
 
Then there is the human penchant for anger. My, how easily they get offended. They’ll get convinced that someone treated them unfairly—usually on the slimmest of evidence—and use this as a reason to turn around and hurt others. Where’s the sense in that! And then they hold onto their anger for months…and sometimes for years and decades. Why would anyone do that to themselves…can’t they see how damaging it is to the spirit?
 
I just don’t understand them…so irrational…so hurtful…and yet God still protects them.
 
One night, as I was watching the Greeks set fire to an enemy warship, the call went out to form a choir. Yes, angels do sing in heaven…in fact, it is one of my favorite activities. So I flew over to the stage and joined the choir-director. Soon, there was a cozy group of fifty or so of us, laughing and singing, when the director called for attention.
 
“We are learning a new collection of songs tonight,” she intoned in her reedy voice. “The central piece is called: ‘Glory to God in the Highest,’ and we will be singing for a small group of shepherds in the hill country of Judea.”
 
A quiet fell over the group. Followed by an outbreak of quiet whispering.
 
“What’s a Judea?” a fine base voice asked me. I shrugged my shoulders in ignorance.
 
A tall soprano was wondering out loud: “Are shepherds a kind of animal?”
 
But it was a tenor who got the director’s attention: “Why are we singing to humans? We’ve never sung to humans.”
 
The director looked up from her music and found the questioner: “No idea…something important must be happening, I would think.” And with that response, she tapped the front of her music stand and started the rehearsal.
 
Now, an angelic choir rehearsal is not what you would think. It is a boisterous event, as angels are naturally happy beings. So, as the sopranos started their introduction to the piece, the altos and tenors began doing cartwheels through the middle of the choir, as the basses danced in tiny little circles. Next the tenors began a counterpoint to the sopranos, leaving only the altos to their cartwheels. Then the entire choir erupted in the main theme, with an overpowering volume of energy, leading to climax of the piece: “Glory to God…Glory to God…Glory to God,” followed by the sopranos trailing away in the final stanzas: “And peace among the people of God’s good-favor.” The quiet of these final lines was sublime. Like a quiet wind rustling the leaves in the trees, but with color and warmth. I was reduced to tears.
 
Later that night, we burst through the trees above a small band of shepherds and sang and sang and sang. The shepherds initially cowered near the ground, almost afraid to stand up or look at us. But as the song rolled on, and the warmth filled the air, they rose up…and danced beneath the star light as we filled the air with the music of heaven.
 
I learned something that night, which is why I am telling you this story. I found the surprise of Christmas: God loves humans…and God loves to see them dance and sing and laugh…and God cares about what happens to them. Oh, God still wants to teach you humans something, centering around justice and kindness, and spending time with your Maker, and stopping all the selfish bickering that characterizes your race. But God is most happy when you share in his joy…and find your spirit dancing away to the music of heaven…for that music is all around you.


Our Lord:
 
We are so convinced that Christianity
is a serious affair.
And so it is.
 
We need to be serious about justice for all,
Until fairness rolls down like waters
and bathes our society in peace.
 
We need to be serious about showing kindness,
so that this earth may become a paradise
where all are valued and loved.
 
We need to be serious about spending time with our Maker,
so that in times of joy and sorrow, hurt and grief,
we find that we are never alone.
 
We need to be serious about our cheer and our joy,
As we were not designed to be miserable
but to enjoy our life in God.
 
And God bids that your spirit dance.
 
Amen.

About the Author
Eric Douglass is the covenant pastor at New Hanover Presbyterian Church, where his work emphasizes adult education. Writing meditations is a natural extension of this. During the current pandemic, his goals have been to ensure that the folk at New Hanover see the deep connection that they have to God and the community, even though the community can’t meet in person. This connection is not just one of continued fellowship, but of God’s presence in the community. God stands with us, no matter what path we are on. In this way, God acts like the father and mother who refuse to abandon their child, no matter how wayward that child, or how difficult the situation. Psalm 23 captures this perfectly: “The Lord is my shepherd.” Eric is a graduate of the University of Missouri, initially earning a degree in biology, and then his medical degree from that university’s Medical School. After practicing medicine for many years, he earned a Masters in Divinity and a Masters in Theology from Union Theological Seminary, here in Richmond. Since that time, he has authored two books, frequently delivers papers at the Society for Biblical Literature, and is an adjunct professor at Randolph-Macon College. But the work he enjoys the most is teaching at New Hanover. Whether in casual discussion during the coffee hour, or a structured Sunday School class, or a Wednesday night special event, this is where he finds authentic people engaged in living out their life with God. Eric lives in Mechanicsville, VA, with his wife (Felecia). He enjoys doing fine cabinetry work and hiking. He has two children, Michael and Daniel, who both live in the DC area. His family is especially fond of playing board games, through which they have whittled away many a winter’s evening.