I was an angel of the Lord.
A fallen angel, really, though I redeemed myself the night of the birth.
Our Sunday school at Holy Apostles was staging the Nativity and I was selected to be an angel – THE ANGEL – who proclaims the joyful tidings of Jesus’ birth to the sheep abiding shepherds.
I probably would have made a better Mary than a heavenly host, as I was shy and soft-spoken, much as I imagined Mary. I was probably too young at the time to be Mary and I was not pretty enough. Pretty girls were always chosen to be Mary. At least in the 5th grade. Still, I would have been a good Mary.
Instead, I was a tiding angel.
A well-intended adult had the abiding faith that I would be heard by the shepherds tending their flocks at night. Faith works in mysterious ways.
The Nativity was to be held on the stage of church – the first church for Holy Apostles. It was an old Lutheran church renovated to house our Greek Orthodox family and served as such for most of my elementary years until the permanent structure was built. The stage was in the basement of the church and the Nativity would be presented on an evening in December, shortly before Christmas.
We were to memorize our lines, mostly biblical passages, and our parents were to properly adorn us so that we could properly adore the baby Jesus.
Being an angelic host, I was crowned with an aluminum foil halo and a white, flowing gown. I do not remember if I had wings, but, the wide, ample dolmen sleeves flared out in the most heavenly fashion when my arms were held straight out. I commanded earthly attention – or at least the attention of the flock of sheep.
Aunt Christina had a sewing machine and so she sewed my angelic costume.
I felt quite holy in it!
I memorized my speech. A textbook first-born overachiever, I eagerly learned my lines and was humbled by the importance of my role. My biggest obstacle was not in the saying of the words, but, saying them so that they could be heard.
Fear not, for behold!
Fear not? I was as frightened as a dormouse meeting the Christmas cat while coming down the chimney.
Finally, dress rehearsal. Dress rehearsals are almost always disastrous, are they not?, especially when they are Christmas pageants.
The wise men, always a role coveted by the most mischievous of boys, misbehaved as if on cue, as did the cane wielding shepherds, whose sticks, brandished as weapons, were repeatedly confiscated.
A ramped platform was constructed so that the Angel of the Lord could rise above the lowly flock. What were they thinking? Was it not enough to expect an audible proclamation of good tidings? Did I have to walk the plank to do it?
Fear not, for behold!
Fear not? Did they actually expect me to climb Mt. Holy Apostles to deliver the message according to Saint Luke?
The shepherds gathered, the sheep shephed, and Father Bill decided to check on the pageant’s progress just as my father arrived to pick me up . . . just as I commenced my heavenly ascent!
That is when I became a fallen angel. Two or three steps up the heralding ramp and I tripped on the robe and tumbled, crashing to earth, denting my Reynolds Wrap halo with it’s glistening dust, as well as my already fragile ego.
Where was divine intervention?
I swear I heard the sheep giggle.
Adults rushed, as adults always do, when children want to fade into the woodwork. I was examined for broken bones as helping hands attempted to disentangle me from my now tangled up gown.
The show, as they say, must go on, so, slowly, s-l-o-w-l-y, ever so slowwwwwly, I ascended toward the brightly shining star hanging from the rafter, finally reaching the peak of my performance where I extended my ample sleeves to all their glory – and uttered my proclamation. Unfortunately, only the giggling sheep could hear. The abiding shepherds could not hear me, nor could Father Bill or my earthly father, Pete.
Most of the words became slurred in the swaddling clothes.
Tears pooled in my eyes as Father and Father huddled. My heavenly halo threatened to dangle into foiled doom. My earthly pride sapped.
The priest came forward, his black robe punctuating his purposeful steps. A sermon at hand. I had a most important speech, he sternly admonished. Not only the giggling sheep, but, the entire world needed to hear St. Luke’s words. “You must project your voice”, he projected. Could I do it by Sunday night’s performance?
My halo bobbed a “yes” as I silently pleaded for mercy and gingerly stepped down from my lofty lift, tears no longer in abeyance, and sobbed my way to my daddy, who I knew was not only disappointed, but was embarrassed by my tears.
That night, I cried myself to sleep, knowing I would awaken a fallen angel with tear swollen eyes. I did not know how I could possibly be a properly proclaiming Angel of the Lord as I feared my fate at the feet of snickering sheep!
My mother paced over my tiny tears. “Pete, do something.” My grandmother sagely said I could do this in her broken English with all the encouragement a Yia Yia can give. My father patted my shoulder and asked me if I thought I could do this. He said he had confidence in me. He knew I could do this. I was a smart girl. He had faith in me. Did I have faith?
I did. I had faith, and that night, rising high above the sheep and shepherds . . .
. . . I was awesomely angelic as I loudly proclaimed:
Fear not, for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, for unto you is born this day, in the City of David, a savior, who is Christ the King. You will find Him wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger . . .
. . . and the sheep did not giggle. The Wise Men behaved. The shepherds
shouldered their canes tightly and a Child was born.
(This is a repost from a few years ago. I hope you don’t mind me recycling it here today.)
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