‘Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here, ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide’ is a prayer many of the older generation will be familiar with. Sadly, these days there is hardly a mention of angels in the Church despite their popularity elsewhere. Yet they are an important part of Church dogma and they play a prominent role in the Advent and Christmas biblical narratives. In our Gospel reading this Sunday we hear the angel Gabriel announcing to Mary the good news that she is to be the mother of our saviour. The same angel told Joseph to take Mary as his wife, called the shepherds to the manger and much later ministered to Jesus following his temptation in the desert before he embarked on his earthly ministry. Throughout the centuries, angels have been given many different artistic representations, but we cannot be sure what they look like. Perhaps we need to look again at what an angel really is.
According to Saint Augustine, angel is the name of their office not their nature. By nature, they are spirit, and their office is to be servants and messengers of God. He ministers to us and communicates his will in many mysterious ways. We may not always be aware that we are surrounded by angels. A little saying I came across recently proclaimed: And God said: “I will send them without wings so no one will know they are angels.” There can be no doubt in the current climate that there are many who are ministering to our needs with care and compassion and speaking words of comfort and encouragement, especially those working in hospitals, medical centres, and nursing homes. No doubt they are reassuring patients and families with Gabriel’s words: “Do not be afraid.” We may not be like angels in nature, but we can all share their office, their work. What better way to celebrate Christmas than by ministering to the needs of others whilst sharing the message of salvation which God has revealed in the birth of his Son. Go on, be an angel.