Churches have been notorious for Christmas pageants for more years than most of us can remember. If we personally can't recall being part of one, we can likely think of one that took place. Boys in bathrobes. Girls in halos and wings. A baby doll in the straw. We love seeing the pageant of God's gift to the world in Jesus come to life!
But are angels the only ones with wings?
We sometimes say that when someone transitions from this life to the next. Whether we comment that the person has "earned" his or her angel wings or received them as a divine gift, the implication is that only someone removed from this world qualifies for a pair. But perhaps we have all been given wings in this life.
William Sloane Coffin is one of the most quotable preachers I've encountered. Even with the deep mysteries of faith, he expresses things clearly, plainly. It is Coffin who quipped: "I love the recklessness of faith. First you leap, and then you grow wings." Yet we often think of faith as "an anchor in the storm" or "solid ground on which to stand." Wings? Sure, we've heard it said and maybe had the sense personally of taking a "leap" of faith, but do we give much thought to what comes after that freefall?
That's a big issue for us this time of year. What do we do with the gifts we are given? Yes, there are other occasions for receiving gifts, but Christmas is often chocked full of them. Another pair of socks to stuff in the drawer. Another tie to hang in the closet. Another little figurine to find a place for on a shelf. Another toy or game to put away at bedtime. Yet don't we often say, "But we don't need a thing!" And that's one of the biggest differences in God's gift of a Savior - we need one!
As we prepare for this Christmas season (just two Sundays short), I encourage you to ponder the many gifts God has given you in addition to the gift of our Lord. The Apostle Paul names "faith, hope, and love" (I Corinthians 13:13). Good place to start! And while you are pondering, here are more of Coffin's words for your consideration: "What is faith? Faith is being grasped by the power of love. Faith is recognizing that what makes God is infinite mercy, not infinite control; not power, but love unending. Faith is recognizing that if at Christmas Jesus became like us, it was so that we might become more like him. We know what that means: watching Jesus heal the sick, empower the poor, and scorn the powerful, we see transparently the power of God at work. Watching Zaccheus climb the tree a crook and come down a saint, watching Paul set out a hatchet man for the Pharisees and return a fool for Christ, we know that our lives too can become channels for divine mercy to flow out to save the lost and the suffering." (Credo, pages 7-8).
If we've all been given wings through the gift of faith, what will we do with them? Where will they take us? And how will they continue to change us? Good questions which invite our wonder this Christmas!