When I think about an angel of the Lord, my mind almost always goes first to a memory of someone’s child in a Christmas pageant. Tinsel halos and wings askew, they speak of holiday joy and innocence.
Then maybe I think of the angels in a nativity set, perhaps the classic Italian set by Fontanini that so many people collect. Depending on when you started your collection, you could own any of a number of Fontanini angels that perch above the stable to celebrate the birth of the child, Jesus.
Then there are stained glass angel pictures …
Angel sculptures …
and popular angel pictures from this century and those past …
What these have in common for me is that I can’t imagine anyone meeting any of these angels and needing to be told “Don’t be afraid!” But that’s what happens every time we read an account in the Bible of a person meeting one of these messengers from God. The person cowers in terror and the angel has to tell them, “Don’t be afraid!”
Angels must be very different from how we imagine them. Madeline l’Engle allows the character of a child in A Wrinkle in Time to describe the cherubim — a specific kind of angel — that he encounters and all he can come up with is:
“A drive of deformed dragons”
That is to say: he saw many wings, many eyes, and no place really solid on which to rest his own eyes. He observed something that looked like the parts of many dragons pasted together incorrectly.
If I ran into something like that in my garden, I might be afraid, too.
Have you encountered angels or other spiritual beings? Was the interaction comforting or frightening? What made you believe the being came from God? How would you know if it was not from God?