Christmas is that time of year when we see and hear much about angels, in our bible readings, Christmas carols, cribs, cards, art and much more. They are often depicted as babies with wings or females with flowing hair, playing harps and singing sweetly. In the Carol Angels we have heard on high the Angels are described as: ‘Singing sweetly through the night’. Caravaggio in his painting Rest on the flight into Egypt depicts a semi-naked female form; likewise Leonardo da Vinci paints a serene feminine face in Madonna of the Rocks. Even Bernini sculptures a mischievous young boy holding a puny arrow in his depiction of The Ecstasy of St Teresa of Avila.
Reality, as seen in scripture differs considerably.
Angels are spiritual beings created by God long before man existed (Hebrews 1:14) and they can resemble human form when God wills it. One of my favourite descriptions is provided by the prophet Daniel 10:5-6:
‘A man dressed in linen, with a belt of pure gold round his waist:
his body was like beryl,
his face looked like lightening,
his eyes were like fiery torches,
his arms and his face had the gleam of burnished bronze,
the sound of his voice was like the roar of a multitude.’
His words to Daniel included ‘Do not be afraid’ words that were also uttered by Gabriel when he appeared to Mary. Likewise the angel at the empty tomb of Jesus is described thus: ‘His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow’ (Matt. 28:4).
The role of the angels is that of messengers carrying out God’s will and they are often warriors for example, Michael the Archangel is portrayed fight the dragon and his angels (Rev12:7-8).
Each of us has a guardian angel, present to guide and protect us:
‘No disaster can overtake you, no plague come near your tent;
he has given his angels orders about you to guard you wherever you go.
They will carry you in their arms in case you trip over a stone.
You will walk upon wild beast and adder, you will trample young lions and snakes.’ (Psalm 91:10-13).
Pray to your guardian angel often, remember he is there to protect and guide you and remember too, that they are much more powerful than human beings. Consider finally the words of Jesus,
‘See that you never despise any of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in heaven are continually in the presence of my Father in heaven.’ (Matthew 18:10).