When Angels Sing

December 01, 2009

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We were a motley crew of summer camp counselors and staff — picked for our characters, not our musical talents. But we'd been asked to provide a special vesper service in the church bowl in Yosemite Valley.

There, in the outdoor granite cathedral, the vesper crowd was transient — family campers, curious rock climbers, bikers. I have very little recollection of the program we put on, except for the climactic musical ending. The song had gone quite well in practice back at camp. That evening in the valley it did not. In fact, as I recall, it was rather chaotic. Basses disappeared, sopranos sharpened, altos wilted and tenors flattened.

But as we slunk back toward the camp van and merciful escape, a hand reached out, gripped my arm, and stopped me in my tracks. In the dim firelight, I could barely make out a scruffy young man with a backpack over one shoulder. "Hey man," he said, "I liked that last song. It really made me think." And just that quickly he was gone.

That song? I thought about it on the way back to camp, and decided I had missed the angels there that night.

Every time we think our performance is amazingly good, or horrifically bad, we have to remember the angel choir. We have to remember there are divine forces at work on behalf of humankind who bridge the gap between the seen and the unseen, the heard and the unheard.

Good King Jehoshaphat couldn't fight on the enemy's terms, but he listened carefully to the prophet's exhortation: "Do not be afraid or dismayed ... the battle is not yours but God's," (2 Chron. 20:15). So he mustered a choir instead and marched to meet the foe, believing in the power of the heavenly host.

And there on the Judean hillside an angelic choir accomplished what religious leaders had failed to do — announce the coming Savior, to a star-struck group of shepherds.

Scriptures remind us even when we pray, even in our most intimate moments with God, our words are inadequate. Paul in Romans 8:26 describes how the Holy Spirit "makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." It's that sort of partnership which brings about the familiar promise two verses later: "All things work together for good."

The Holy Spirit and angelic host stand ready to work together for good, to bridge the gap when our best efforts fall short.

If you're a performance freak, if you've been taught anything short of perfection is not good enough, remember that. If you've been pushed down and put down, insecure and unsure you can do anything right, remember that.

In even the most mundane of daily events, stop, look and listen. Maybe, just maybe, you will hear the angels sing.

"There on the Judean hillside an angelic choir accomplished what religious leaders had failed to do."