Honestly, I like the ugly angels. Those cute, chubby cherubs leave me cold. I prefer the ugly, powerful kind who can show up in the midst of chaos and make you believe them when they declare, “Fear not.”
I also tend to relate to Jonah, the reluctant, not-so-very good prophet, to the more show-off-y Isaiah. I like Jacob when he wrestled with the angel, and Hannah, when she prayed so impolitely that the priests assumed she must be drunk.
I seek balance, but I like the slightly off-kilter. That’s why the Christian holidays – from Christmas through Pentecost – sometimes annoy me. The Mary of the crèche, bears little resemblance in my mind to the Mary who bled, ached and screamed, with no running water or medicine, amid the straw and animal dung to give birth in the night.
If I made a nativity set, I think I’d tarnish and tilt her halo just a bit.
That’s why I loved the altar display at Mt. Olive UMC in Randallstown the one morning I visited. Its pastor, the Rev. Laura Lee Morgan, is creative and believes that the altar can serve as a living canvas to illuminate the stories of God.
This season, she displayed evergreen trees that were decorated with the themes of each Sunday’s Advent lesson. I arrived the first week and went into the sanctuary to see her work.
While she was not pleased, I was delighted to find that the “e” in “hope” had fallen off the tree.
“HOP” it told us, in large white letters. I did. I’ve been hopping through Advent, and it’s given me new hope that Christ is born in unexpected, places. With that Advent display, I was reminded that the church is not supposed to be coloring inside the lines.
Christmas, in all its glittery, silent night wonder, can also be audacious and messy and still be holy. So, I’m waiting on my angel, certain that his annunciation will defy my sense of order and open up God’s unexpected wonder.