Hear the angels sing!

A Christian Science perspective.

One of the most beloved Christmas carols, “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” paints a vision of angels “bending near the earth,” heralding to hillside shepherds a message of “peace on earth, goodwill to men” on the night of Christ Jesus’ birth. The touching lyrics and lilting melody, which became exceedingly popular in mid-19th-century America, still resonate today in churches and on radio and TV programs.

Christmas carols such as this one are like angels themselves, causing us to pause, listen, and sing along with their inspiring messages. “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” refers to angels’ “peaceful wings unfurled” and “harps of gold,” but inspired thought and prayer this time of year can exchange those nostalgic symbols for a more spiritual view of angels – where they are and what they do for us.

The 19th-century religious figure Mary Baker Eddy, in her book “Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures,” describes angels in this way: “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).

Anytime we are pausing, like the shepherds of old, to hear God’s thoughts – His messages of goodness and love – we’re entertaining angels. God is infinite Mind, ever present and governing all. Amid holiday preparations, as we’re boarding planes, taking car trips, or even waiting in lines at stores, we can devote ourselves more consistently to hearing “the angels sing,” as the carol puts it. This isn’t dreamy escapism or mental idleness, but actually a kind of prayer that listens for spiritual ideas – God’s in-breaking reality. This spiritual reality, coming to our waiting sense, cuts through the clutter of materialism and pushes us to go deeper, to examine our motives for everything we do and say.

I like to think that angels, or God’s thoughts, give us the wisdom to know what to do, the integrity to carry it out, and the love to rightly impel or motivate that action. Angels can be seen as God’s “steering hand,” uniquely adapted to our personal needs and situations. Divine Mind, the infinite Father and Mother of man and the universe, directs and governs us as surely as He guides the sun, moon, and stars in their mighty courses. More and more we’ll learn to “look up,” not down, as we move through our daily activities, feeling grateful for divine Love’s presence and increasingly obedient to Mind’s pure guidance.

Just as important, perhaps, will be the lesson of learning to “put down” human will, egotism, or a too-determined sense of needing to “get things done” – all of which prevent us from noticing God’s angels and moving in step with them. Such tendencies arise from the misconception that there exist many minds or wills, scrambling around and elbowing one another. Yet the Bible, time and again, echoes the prophet Isaiah’s angelic vision: “I am God, and there is none else” (45:22). It is our purpose and privilege to be instruments of God’s will, agents of His love, not obstructionists. By listening to divine Mind’s direction, or angel messages, we come into our true nature as God’s likeness, imaging forth His righteousness and wisdom. “[T]herefore ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God” (Isaiah 43:12).

How will we know if angels are at hand? We’ll know their presence “by the love they create in our hearts,” Mrs. Eddy writes (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 306). It will be a love for God and humanity that gives deep-seated peace, despite life’s ups and downs, for as Edmund Sears’s time-honored lyrics attest, “O rest beside the weary road,/ And hear the angels sing.”

Watch this column during December for further insights on how people have found more of the true meaning of Christmas.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.