Angels and my mother-in-law

A Christian Science perspective on daily life.

When I was in sixth grade, I got to be the angel in our community Christmas play. When all the shepherds and their fake sheep were on stage and a bright light was shined on them, I was the one who told them, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people" (Luke 2:10).

I was concerned that my costume didn't have any wings, but my mom explained that wings on angels are really just an artist's way of showing that the angel messages we might hear are not just human.

Later, I found what became my favorite description of angels in Mary Baker Eddy's "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "God's thoughts passing to man; spiritual intuitions, pure and perfect; the inspiration of goodness, purity, and immortality, counteracting all evil, sensuality, and mortality" (p. 581).

The Christmas story is full of angels and their messages: Mary's spiritual intuition about the child Jesus, the inspiration that gave Joseph assurance to trust Mary and to protect her and the baby, the message to the shepherds of the good news, the inspiration that guided the wise men. But maybe one of the really unusual things about the Christmas story is that so many people were ready to listen to these angel thoughts.

There is an exception, even in the Christmas story. It's Zacharias, who receives a clear angel message about a great blessing to come, but Zacharias doesn't want to listen. Instead, Zacharias gives the angel an argument (see Luke, chap. 1).

It seems likely to me that our Father-Mother God is sending us angel thoughts, spiritual intuitions, all the time. The question is, how ready are we to receive them? I can certainly think of times in my life when a spiritual intuition about something has come to me, and instead of accepting the idea, I've responded with all kinds of "yes, buts."

One time at Christmas I had a chance to listen to an angel message, and it changed my life. It all started when my mother-in-law arrived. I'd promised myself that this time I wouldn't mind that she ignored everyone but her son. I vowed that we would have a pleasant visit. But within two days, I found myself in a slow boil of resentment and frustration. Even before breakfast was over, everything the children or I did was criticized. I remember slamming into the bedroom to get dressed.

I was feeling very justified about being angry. But I did remember that I was going to listen to God's angel messages. For a minute I was pulled between savoring my righteous indignation and the idea of being ready to receive spiritual inspiration.

Then the idea came quietly that I could recognize the Christ-idea in my mother-in-law. I was startled, but I remembered not to do a "Zacharias 'yes, but' " and argue with the inspiration.

I thought of what I knew of the Christ, the divine idea, expressing God's love to humanity, and I really listened for a concrete way to recognize the spiritual qualities expressed by my mother-in-law. I thought of how much I appreciated my husband and his brother and sister, their integrity and compassion, and I saw that my mother-in-law had brought up those three good people, nurturing all the best qualities in them, including a sense of humor. It was amazing to me that right where I had been hot and tight with anger, I could feel free, full of joy and respect for the Christ-idea of nurturing good as expressed by my mother-in-law.

This was a turning point in my relationship with my mother-in-law (who turned out to have a pretty good sense of humor herself!) and an annual reminder of how important it is to listen to angel messages at Christmas and every day.

He shall give his angels
charge over thee,
to keep thee in all thy ways.
Psalms 91:11

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