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Monday, December 19, 2011

ANGELS FROM ON HIGH

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From an essay by Father Alfred Delp, S.J.,
who was imprisoned and later executed because of
his resistance to the Nazis during World War II.
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I see Advent this year with greater intensity and anticipation than ever before.  Walking up and down in my cell, three paces this way and three paces that way, with my hands in irons and ahead of me an uncertain fate, I have a new and different understanding of God’s promise of redemption and release.
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This reminds me of the angel that was given to me two years ago for Advent by a kind person.  The angel bore the inscription, “Rejoice, for the Lord is near.”  The angel was destroyed by a bomb.  A bomb killed the man who gave it to me, and I often feel he is doing me the service of an angel.
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The horror of these times would be unendurable unless we kept being cheered and set upright again by the promises that are spoken. The angels of annunciation, speaking their message of blessing into the midst of anguish, scattering their seed of blessing that will one day spring up amid the night, call us to hope. These are not yet the loud angels of rejoicing and fulfillment that come out into the open, the angels of Advent. Quiet, inconspicuous, they come into rooms and before hearts as they did then. Quietly the bring God’s questions and proclaim to us the wonders of God,
 for whom nothing is impossible.
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For all its earnestness, Advent is a time of inner security, because we have received a message. Oh, if it ever happens that we forget the message and the promises; if all we know is the four walls and the prison windows of our gray days; if we can no longer hear the gentle step of the announcing angels; if our soul no longer is at once shaken and exalted by their whispered word--then it will be all over with us.
We are living wasted time and are dead
 before they do us any harm.
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The article below is interesting for a number of reasons, .
not the least of which is that this comes from a website for pastors - reformedworship.org sponsored by the Christian Reformed Church. Here's resources for planning and leading worship. It's ideas about how to get your message across. In this case it's how to get mileage out of angels.
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Have You Seen the Angels?

by Kenneth D Coeman
Pastor, Sonlight Community Christian Reformed Church
Lynden, Washington
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It's fall. You are already noticing the Christmas catalogues showing up in your mailbox.
Though school has barely begun, your calendar tells you it is time to plan for Advent and Christmas.
And the very thought of it makes you tremble just a little.
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You are a conscientious pastor or worship leader involved in planning worship in your church.
You know how easily the meaning and magnificence of the incarnation of our Lord can be trivialized.
You know how slowly your own heart warms up to its radiance, how dull your own mindcan be to its meaning. But still, each year that holy jealousy for the glory of Christmas is stirred within you.
The hope begins to build again within your heart that once more this year no one in your congregation will leave the manger unclear about what happened, unmoved by its magnitude, or unchanged by its message. You want so much more for them than mere amazement  or a touch of "the Christmas spirit," meaningful as such emotions may be.  You want them to experience what people under Nazi occupation and oppression during World War II felt when they heard the news that D-Day had come: a sudden and solid hope that liberation is imminent, hope that quickly crescen-doed into inextinguishable joy.
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One doorway into such a vision of Christmas is opened for us by, of all creatures, the angels.
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Angels are everywhere during the advent of Christ. The largest concentration of angels anywhere in the Bible occurs right here—rebuking, informing,encouraging, guiding, protecting, advising, and most of all, worshiping. Moreover, their presence and message did precisely then what we desire now for ourselves and our people: they transformed the vision of ordinary folks going about their ordinary routines by revealing to them that the living God was in fact entering their world—that he was, as in the case of the shepherds, right in the neighborhood. A rigid priest, a baffled young virgin, a strict fiance, common shepherds—all were met with messages by angels.
The impact on each of them was profoundly life-changing.
If our people can be led to see the incarnation through angels' eyes, should we expect anything less?
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Moreover, if ever people were open to messages from angels, they are open now. Angels have been making quite a stir in the popular imagination.  In fact, in the last two years there has been a tidal wave of fascination with angels.
Harvard Divinity School now offers a course on angels. Boston College offers two.
The most celebrated play on Broadway recently was Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize-winning Angels in America, the story of a divine messenger who ministers to a man with AIDS.  There are angels-only boutiques, angel newsletters, angel seminars, angels on Sonja Live.
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Especially at Christmas there are angels everywhere. We make them in snowdrifts, hang them on trees, bake them in cookies, play them in pageants.
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• Billy Graham's book on angels has been republished. The first edition sold over 3 million copies.
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• Hillary Clinton wears a gold pin on days she needs special help. "Angel's wings," she explains.
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Angels are in the media and cultural air. You can even buy books on angels at the local warehouse supermarket outlet!
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Given these realities, we are presenting the themes and formats of the following five services [not included here] in the hope that the angelic light once shed upon the birth of Christ will illuminate minds and brighten hearts still today.
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From THE URANTIA BOOK
Part IV, 122, 8
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At the noontide birth of Jesus the seraphim of Urantia, assembled under their directors, did sing anthems of glory over the Bethlehem manger, but these utterances of praise were not heard by human ears. No shepherds nor any other mortal creatures came to pay homage to the babe of Bethlehem until the day of the arrival of certain priests from Ur, who were sent down from Jerusalem by Zacharias.
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