What has been the best story for you this year or in your family and country? People who bring news are important and in the Christmas story angels play a significant part. They announce the message of the coming baby to Mary and to Joseph, they told that this baby would be the saviour of the world, they then announced to the whole world in a heavenly choir the great news , peace on earth and goodwill towards men.
I have been thinking about the message of the angels and also how angels can become a symbol of hope and protection. I am sitting on Christmas eve on a balmy evening looking forward to a warm, tropical Christmas without the crispy snow and frost that is so familiar in Scotland. I hear this year there are even storms and severe weather. But then that first Christmas there was no snow, despite our many Christmas cards carols that say otherwise.
I have a banana fibre Christmas tree hung with African angels and several other beautiful angels made from local materials including bark fibre, safety pins and local fabric. We also have shared beaded angels on our Cairdeas stalls for some years made in South Africa and Uganda.
There have been some precious stories of ways these simple symbols have represented love and care. One of my friends showed me the wee angel I had given when her husband was dying. She has carried in her purse as a reminder of God's care for several years. Another friend shared how her very sick friend asked to her to give an angel to each of her family so they can hang it on the tree and remember her.
We had a party with our patients at Mulago last week and so enjoyed singing in several languages, eating cake and piled high plates of Uganda food. I was sharing one of the names given to Jesus and often given as a name to boys here in Uganda. Emmanuel which means God with us. This was the profound message of the first Christmas. it is also the amazing message still here today. My Rwandan colleagues then spoke of us being little Emmanuel. Being the presence of God in each other's lives and in the lives of those who have little good news and even less peace. We think of our brothers and sisters in South Sudan and Syria and many other places of conflict this Christmas. We think of the many people ill in hospital or at home, those who are missing loved ones, those who do not have food or clothes, who do have choices over their lives. Many of us will have an symbolic angel in our homes or on our Christmas trees this year. Perhaps we can take the good news the angels sang to heart and let it change our lives but also let it change how we relate to the world around us. As one of the greatest global leaders said; 'Our human compassion binds us the one to the other - not in pity or patronizingly,but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future'. Nelson MandelaWishing you 2014 full of hope.