Big tears were welling up behind his eye lids. He tried very hard to blink them away. He was flying within a large flock of fellow angels, wings spread wide, arms stretched out as if ready to embrace someone. You see, this angel was new at angel-ling. He could not yet hide his feelings behind an angelic smile.
He couldn’t take his eyes of the planet earth: There it was, hanging in the atmosphere, slowly, ever so slowly turning around and around. Because of this, our angel could see many different countries, many different people, and they were all doing many different things. It was Christmas time, the time when humans on earth celebrated the Lord Jesus’ Birthday, different ways in different countries, even different dates. They do so every year, have done so for more than two-thousand years. Now, once again, they were singing of love and Peace on Earth, giving presents to each other, thinking more than usually of helping and sharing with the less fortunate and the poor. Our angel wondered: Why didn’t they do this all year ‘round? Didn’t the Lord say, “The left hand does not need to know what the right one does”? Wouldn’t this mean they should not have a reason for helping but just do it? Why wait for Christmas? Couldn’t it be like Christmas all year ‘round?
Oh, our angel thought, there is so much trouble down there. The humans are trying to destroy each other, and their beautiful planet in the process.
It was not the fire from the deep bowels of the earth, spit out by angry boiling volcanoes, which was trying to reach way up into the sky. No. No, it was fire made by the humans to destroy other humans, burn each other’s cities and kill each other’s people. They call it “War.” There seems to be war in many countries, on many continents. Where neighbours destroying neighbours? Our angel spotted a prison camp in the middle of nowhere. You couldn’t escape from there. A barbed wire fence was built around it anyway. Watch-towers were on the four corners, and several heavily clad soldiers on each of them with machine guns pointed to a large group of shivering men in the middle of a square. Many had no shoes, just old rags wrapped around frostbitten feet. A well-dressed commander stood before them. A huge flag on a pole beside him did not move. It was twilight, the time between the parting day and the rapidly approaching night. Frost crackled in the air. The breath of the men, coming like tiny puffs of smoke, suspended over and around each of them. What an eerie scene, useless in the big picture of history, but still already part of it.
Wait! What was that? Sounds of music? Was that a sound coming from a single, shy voice in the wintry night air? The sound got louder, stronger, steadier, as all the men in the middle of the square joined in, despite the warning shots fired around them, bouncing off the hard, frozen earth. Loud and clear it rang up to the sky:
“Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright…”
The flock of angels slowed their flight, even descended a little. They were allowed to do that if they saw something unusual, you know. A magical night it was. A wondrous feeling was evoked by this chorus of men in the middle of nowhere, kept in a camp from which there was no escape, even if the barbed wire fence and the guns would not be in place. The angel saw they were lost but there was hope against hope.
Is there still a chance for “Peace on Earth”? Maybe. Maybe all isn’t lost yet, thought our angel. Now, what was that? All the armed soldiers put down their guns. They joined the singing in a strange, guttural language. As our flock of angels moved on they saw and heard it happen in many countries as they passed over the slowly, ever so slowly turning planet earth. Soldiers came out of the trenches and shook hands with their enemy, even gave each other little gifts and kicked a ball around. Tomorrow is another day; they may have to shoot at each other again.
The tears behind our angel’s eye lids welled up mightily. No blinking them away anymore. Large and hot, they silently rolled over his cheeks and dripped down into the atmosphere. They froze to tiny icicles, falling, falling and falling until they reached warmer air, melted slightly, changed their shape and turned into snowflakes. They drifted down to planet earth, a few at first, then more and more, and still more! You see, all the angels had started weeping, just as all the men had joined the singing in all those languages, after one had had the heart to start the song. The angels flapped their wings to hold them steady in the air, and because of all the flapping, a wind came up.
The wind made the snowflakes dance, up and down, around and around. Soon the air was filled with snowflakes, closer and closer to planet earth they came. They fell on the upturned faces of the singing men, they fell on people who had lost a loved one; they fell on children who had nothing to eat or didn’t even have a place to call home. The snowflakes mingled with all the tears. Soon you wouldn’t know which of the drops, rolling down young and old cheeks, were tears and which were melting snowflakes. The cold dark night, the endless loneliness of a faraway but star filled sky filled the hearts of all people with a longing so strong that it hurt. How they wanted to be with their loved ones, oh, to have a bed again, a warm room and a warm coat, and hot soup to fill the belly. But mostly, they were longing for Peace on Earth!
And so it was, and so it is: When you see a single snow flake drift down, look up for others. Because, angels fly in flocks you see, and when one is sad and sheds a tear, it is never over a trivial thing. Therefore, all the other angels will be kind and supportive and compassionate, and soon, they cry too. During all the commotion, they will lose height and will have to flap their wings, just like birds, to stay in the air. And that is the wind that makes the snowflakes dance. You can count on it. The angels are just overhead.
You don’t believe me? Go out on a snowy winter night at Christmas! You will see it for yourself.