Christmas Eve 2022
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward all people.” And it came to pass… (Luke 2:13-15a, adapted of course because it’s KJV)
About 30 years ago in the mid 1990’s my friend, Sean gave me this angel for Christmas. This sweet soul was one from his series called, “Fat Angels Singing.” Common Ground was my first job after seminary, a program sponsored by the Atlanta Interfaith AIDS Network. Every day from 10 in the morning until 3 in the afternoon, a group on us would gather in an old house on Juniper and spend the day. No two days ever the same.
We were a gaggle of folks infected and affected by HIV. It was before the use of protease inhibitors and many of the guys were pretty sick. As I’m typing, I’m remembering that back then we had an AIDS quilt hanging on the wall in the art room with names and pictures of friends who had died of AIDS. In those days, we were adding to the blanket once a week or so. “Imagine a circle and God is in the center. Imagine that we are all the spokes on that wheel. The closer we get to God, the closer we are to one another…”
Each day folks from different congregations (Unitarian, Jewish, Christian) would bring lunch and then spend the afternoon together. This was a place where folks leaned in. We’d talk and go for walks in Piedmont Park. We’d talk and go to the movies or bowling. Sometimes we’d just talk. It was a different time in those days. No one had an agenda, folks just showed up with and for each other. Thursdays were always Art Days. Judy, our shaman would lead us in art projects. It was on one of those Thursdays long ago now that my Fat Angel came into the world through Sean’s hands.
I’ve haven’t (yet) given Sean’s angel her own name. When I first met her, she was a member of a ceramic choir, an ensemble. There were ten of them or so. Not that she has ever been intentionally nameless, that’s not it all it. Instead in my first meeting her, I had the impression that her voice was woven with her sister on her left and on her right. My first impression was that her voice was a part of a bigger voice, a bigger song.
I look at this round, blue, precious angel thinking about how different the world is now than when Sean gave her to me thirty years ago. Sean has died and so has Judy. So many of those souls once shoulder-to-shoulder around the art table are no longer with us. Long since pictures sown on a quilt. Now thirty years have passed, and I’ve moved from Atlanta and live 8 blocks from the Pacific Ocean. So many changes…and yet…and still…
On this Christmas Eve the story goes that an angel sang, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill to all people.” And this day into this night, we are leaning in. As we seek to move closer to God, may we not forget that we are also moving closer to our neighbors … closer to those who are sick of body and spirit, to the young and old ones who are cold and hungry in Ukraine and Gaza, in Peru and North Korea, to those who are experiencing homelessness in such cold weather, closer to those in jails and prisons. On this Christmas Eve I am listening for my friend, Sean’s angel. This Christmas Eve I am hoping to hear her good news proclamation and to hear her song.
Into this silent night
As we make our weary way
We know not where,
just when the night becomes its darkest
and we cannot see our path,
is when the angels rush in,
their hands full of stars.
Kneeling in Bethlehem by Ann Weems