“SUDDENLY there was, with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying ‘Glory to God in
“SUDDENLY there was, with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying ‘Glory to God in the Highest’.” (Luke 2: 13,14).
These words will, I am sure, be very familiar to most of us and will take us back to the many Nativity plays we have watched or performed in over the years.
It’s not too difficult to imagine, perhaps, the shock that the shepherds must have felt at the arrival of the angel, a messenger from God.
But what of the “heavenly host”? What do we make of them? What picture comes into our mind? For me, it has always been pretty static. Rank on rank of angels, like cherubic choir boys, standing in neatly ordered rows.
But then, a few days ago, I went to see the annual late autumn spectacle of the “murmuration” of starlings at Otmoor. Standing on a bank at sunset, looking out of the reed beds, suddenly, with no prearranged signal, thousands upon thousands of these birds gather for the night.
For 20 minutes or so they stream in from every direction. New groups arrive and merge seamlessly into the much larger pack, swooping through the air.
No doubt they are on the lookout for predators but, in doing so, they sweep past in the most spectacular formations. It’s almost as if they are dancing with delight before they settle down for the night.
So now I’m trying to rethink my picture of that heavenly host that first Christmas. Not static but swirling with delight. Like the dancers celebrating all that Nelson Mandela achieved in his life. Or a Catherine wheel swirling with flame, and colour, and exuberance.
Thinking of it in that way has brought me closer to the real joy of Christmas itself.