Angels in Disguise

December 14th, 2010

Have you ever wondered why angels are placed on top of Christmas trees? Apparently, Santa was having a bad Christmas one year. He asked Mrs. Claus to wake him at 5 a.m. and have his breakfast ready with a packed lunch. He then went to his workshop and told the elves to have all the gifts packed in the sleigh and the reindeer harnessed at 5:30 a.m.

At 5:30 the following morning he awoke and jumped out of bed, furious with Mrs. Claus for not waking him on time. His mood got worse when he realized she had no breakfast ready. Then he ran out to his sleigh only to find the elves all dishelveled, no gifts packed and the reindeer running loose in the field.

About this time a little angel walked by, dragging a large Christmas tree and said, “Santa what should I do with this Christmas tree?” Santa looked daggers at her and said “I’ll tell you what you can do with that Christmas tree……”

Now angels are placed on the top of the Christmas tree each year as a reminder that even the angelic Santa loses his cool from time to time.

Aside from this tall tale, there are many different ideas about angels. Some people think of them as literal beings. Some think of them as metaphors for surprising messengers. Angels are still widely regarded. A recent study conducted by Baylor University showed that half of all Americans believe they are protected by guardian angels. One-fifth of Americans say they’ve heard angels speak to them in a very specific way.

Maybe you feel skeptical like George Carlin, who said this about people who believe in angels-

“Has everybody lost their mind? You know what I think it is? I think it’s a massive, collective, psychotic chemical flashback for all the drugs smoked, swallowed, shot, and absorbed by Americans from 1960 to 1990. Thirty years of street drugs will get you some angels, my friend!”

Carlin is part of a long line of skeptics who have questioned the existence of angels. Johannes Kepler, the 16th century astronomer, was the first to document the Copernican revolution. When he began to question how the planets move, he challenged the common understanding of his day that angels pulled the planets by the corners of a giant canopy that sheltered the flat earth. By exploring the natural phenomenon of the movement of planets, Kepler finally concluded that angels were not needed as part of the explanation.

The original Christmas stories were crafted in a pre-Copernican context. Angels and spirits were used to explain extraordinary circumstances. Angels fluttered at the intersection between heaven and earth, bringing divine messages to people on earth and singing songs of peace. It’s a story that’s difficult to read literally with our modern understanding of the world.

And yet many of us long for a sense of something larger than ourselves and we seek explanations for experiences that we can’t fully explain. We long to believe in ideals such as peace and justice, even though we have no evidence that they are ever attainable. We want to believe in miracles without compromising our rational minds. Maybe the idea of angels can be reinterpreted in a way that satisfies our curiosity with the unknown without offending our contemporary common sense.

You could think of angels as nature’s voice, surrounding you on every side with the sounds of mysterious order and beauty. You could think of angels as inner voices guiding you to new truth or voices encouraging you to hold your ideals despite the evidence. Angels could be meaningful coincidences and moments of synchronicity. They could be other people who show up at just the right time with just the right words or actions of care. They could be these things and so much more.

A nine year old girl described angels like this- “My angel is my grandma who died last year. She got a big head start on helping me while she was still down here on earth.”

This Christmas, consider what angels mean to you and consider the possibility that you are an angel for others. You are the presence of what is divine and sacred and beautiful in the world. Your every thought, word and action is an opportunity to inspire another person with your presence and encouragement.

We are each other’s angels
And we meet when it is time
We give each other messages
And show each other signs. David Lamotte.

Whether you believe in the literal events of the first Christmas or whether you believe that the world is full of love and beauty, either way you get a Christmas miracle. You get your Christmas miracle if you choose to see the world that way. Something angelic is waiting to be born in your life and in the world this Christmas. It may require some labor pains as the waters of new consciousness break, but do not shrink back. It is urging you forward. Do you hear the divine messages? Love filling the earth. Justice rising. Hope and history rhyming. Memory and imagination harmonizing. Do you hear it? Faint whispers speak to you, the voice of God heard through nature and through the fragile and angelic tones of human life.

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  1. Germaine says:

    Hello Ian, I have just recently discovered the soulseeds website after listening to your talk with Michael Dowd on his Advent of Evolutionary Christianity series.  I was very impressed with what you had to say.  I grew up and spent most of my life in the RC Church.  I left it about 10 years ago.  I am 65 now and have been searching  through John Shelby Spong, talks online on Evolutionary and  Integral Spirituality, Eastern philosophies, etc, wondering where do I fit.   Any chance of you moving to a remote community in rural, conservative, Manitoba, Canada?    

  2. ian says:

    hi Germaine, thank you for your kind note. You are not alone. I connect with people weekly in the same situation. I run a community in a conservative part of Michigan so I know something of how you feel. We have a satelite community north of us. If you would like to explore the idea of a satelite group please write to me at Its very straightforward. Ian

  3. steve burt, progressive pastor in CT says:

    Ian, tell Germaine to check out (The Center for Proegressive Christianity, which I know you’re familiar with). She might be able to locate a church or group or individual near her by checking the Affiliates section of the site. Steve

  4. Christi says:

    Tuscon Tragedy : literally spurred me into community action to volunteer my time. I wonder why does it take such tragedies to do THAT?!  Im glad I am finally getting involved but shame on me for being passive up til now. Great insight, Ian. 

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