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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
               Friday, December 6 2002 

Jon Kennedy, webmaster Touched by an angel

This week's topic is charisma, spiritual qualities exhibited by certain people, auras, and powers or energies that attract and intrigue us.

Touched By An Angel (TBAA) has been my favorite show since I first discovered it, not long after its debut. Earlier, Michael Landon's Highway to Heaven was also very well liked, and I believe there was a yet earlier "angel show" that I also watched (not Charlie's Angels!), though I don't remember any specifics. Director Frank Capra's It's A Wonderful Life (1946) is a great movie, one of my two favorite Christmas movies ever, and one that seems to get better every year. Its influence on these programs is apparent.

As a middling theologian in the Protestant sense of the word and a "Christian journalist," I'm convinced that Touched By An Angel has the best theology of all of these, in the sense that, in watching it closely for years, I have yet to see any egregious violations of biblical theological precepts in TBAA. That's saying a lot; it tells me the writers and producers know their stuff and are working hard. By contrast, the angel central character in It's A Wonderful Life, Clarence, is a former human being who has died and is awaiting his promotion to full angel by getting his wings. That's "bad theology"; there is no biblical evidence that human beings ever turn into angels (though there is church tradition support for a doctrine that saints who've taken the monastic route to holiness have been designated by God to replace the fallen angels who joined Satan's rebellion); and there is much biblical evidence that angels are "purpose created" (as the engineers would put it these days), to serve God in quite different ways than human beings do.

The biggest "stretch" in TBAA is its premise that angels intervene casually in people's lives, a premise its producers probably have borrowed from It's A Wonderful Life. That is not as common as the show suggests, of course, but there are biblical examples of angels appearing in human form in the lives of human beings, including Mary and Joseph, the Apostle Peter and his companions (Acts 5:19), for starters. And more than the biblical evidence for their premise, the producer/writers probably rely on the testimony of many people who tell of having been visited by angels. Research by Gallup-type poll takers find that a high cross-section of people testify of having been helped by angels, so much so that I'm surprised that no one has taken up my invitation to share such encounters this week. Another show that I've followed for some time, PAX's It's A Miracle, has provided a few "substantive" reenactments of such visitations, none of which have been as sustained or intimate as those in TBAA.

TBAA's "turning on the halos" at the moment of revelation in the stories' climaxes may seem hokey, but has support in anecdotal testimony about angelic visits, and also in the intervention of saints on behalf of their "spiritual children." I read lives of saints constantly, and though it is not usual, seeing auras or halos around their heads or seeing their faces literally glow is mentioned repeatedly.

This topic seems to be "in season," so input is still encouraged. Let me know your experiences along these lines, if any, or any reactions, positive or negative, to what's been said, or any questions you want to pose (not that I am the "answer man," but there is wisdom "out there"). If there is no other topic crying out for treatment next week, we may continue this on Tuesday.

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy

On-the-job dictionary

"APPLY IN PERSON": If you're old, fat, or ugly you'll be told the position has been filled.

"NO PHONE CALLS, PLEASE": We've filled the job; our call for resumes is just a legal formality.

"SEEKING CANDIDATES WITH A WIDE VARIETY OF EXPERIENCE:" You'll need it to replace three people who just left.

—Sent by Mike Harrison

Thought for today

The original Santa Claus

St. Nicholas was born in Asia Minor (now Turkey) and was the Bishop of Myra until his death around 350 A.D, His generosity to the poor is legendary. The giving of gifts at Christmas is attributed to him. A Greek legend from Myra says that gifts would appear mysteriously at the doors of the poor houses at Christmastime. This occurred year after year, until St. Nicholas passed away, when the gifts no longer appeared! It was then realized that the gifts had been brought by St. Nicholas to the poor children.

Another legend of St. Nicholas says that three daughters were so poor that they did not have the required dowry to be married. St. Nicholas pitied the girls and secretly gave them one gold piece each, which enabled them to marry. The legend of the kindness of St. Nicholas to the three daughters is known as "The visit of St. Nicholas" and was brought to America by Dutch colonists who first developed New York (New Amsterdam). The Dutch word for St. Nicholas is "Sinterklaas," which was rendered Santa Claus in English. In 1822, Clement C. Moore composed his famous poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas," later published as "The Night Before Christmas." Moore's poem is considered to be the basis for the modern-day image of Santa Claus as a jolly fat man in a red suit, bearing gifts.

It is unfortunate that the modern day image of Santa Claus, a caricature of a poem, has overtaken the true image of St. Nicholas, one of the greatest bishops in Christian history, whose true story should be known. His whole life he lived for the poor and did all he could do for them. He so profoundly affected the poor that his death was seen as the passing of a great loved one, so many stories flourished about him that some live on till this day as legends 15 centuries later. More churches are said to have been named for St. Nicholas than any other individual, attesting to his great popularity.

St. Nicholas' "Saint's Day" is December 6 which, in many countries of the world, marks the beginning of the Christmas season.

—Adapted from several St. Nicholas web pages

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