George Whyte: No need to be angel over Christmas

Even at Christmas I don’t want to be an angel. For a start there are the wings. Flying sounds great – ideal for commuting. But where do you put them in bed? Then there’s the whole glowing-in-the-dark thing. This is not an attribute that helps you fit in. And the halo? Is that a good look?

By Rev Dr George Whyte
Wednesday, 24th December 2014, 11:45 am

There’s the whole “company of the heavenly host” thing. Have you noticed how these angel choirs are always perfect looking? It’s a scary setting where everybody is exactly the same and always in tune.

But the worst thing is all that 
perfection stuff, the white-dress-purity and goody-no-shoes stuff. The continual goodwill stuff. The never-an-angry-word stuff.

I’m not an angel and I don’t want to be an angel. I want be a real person among real people. I don’t want to be an angel with purity built in – I want to make the right choices of my own free will.

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I don’t want to be an angel hovering round the sky on a starry night. I belong on the ground, a one-off amongst other one-offs, part of the community, a free spirit with all the dangers and promise such liberty brings.

So it’s good to remember that it’s a person who is the centrepiece of the Christmas story.

Sure, there are angels in the narrative – the people who passed us the story believed that this was about God at work. But the focus is always the Christ child – a wee boy, a human being with all the usual risks and potential. The main parts are taken by human beings – a teenage mum, a confused dad, confused shepherds and puzzled wise men.

Christmas is not for angels. Christmas is good news from angels but for people.

Christmas says that I am a brother of the baby of Bethlehem and within me, as within him, there is something of the Maker. In the ancient tale an angel speaks to Mary about the child she will have. When Mary and Joseph sheltered in the stable God was heard in angels’ songs. But he was seen in the child they cradled in the straw.

Angels wake up some of the poorest of the land to give them the glad tidings. But when the angels have flown what was left is a child who in time would practise the love of God with some decidedly unlovely individuals.

By all means enjoy the angels this year – on cards, in choirs, in nativity plays. They can be beautiful.

But the real Christmas sparkle comes from peeping into the manger and seeing that there’s nothing more holy than being human. See that and you’ll fly higher than any angel ever can.

Rev Dr George Whyte is principal clerk of the presbytery of Edinburgh/acting principal clerk for the Church 
of Scotland