In a Window on the World four years ago, I read a story by J. B. Phillips called “The Angels’ Point of View” [in New Testament Christianity, pp. 15-19]. It is a story my father often read at Christmastime, sometimes to our family, and sometimes to the whole church. I don’t intend to read it every year, but this seems like a good year to read it again.
The story is a sort of modern parable about Jesus coming as the light of the world. It is based on two passages of Scripture:
“In him was life, and that life was the light of men… . The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world” (John 1:4, 9).
“Concerning this salvation, the prophets… searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow… . Even angels long to look into these things” (1 Pet. 1:10-11, 12b).
And now for our story:
Once upon a time a very young angel was being shown round the splendors and glories of the universes by a senior and experienced angel. To tell the truth, the little angel was beginning to be tired and a little bored. He had been shown whirling galaxies and blazing suns… and to his mind there seemed to be an awful lot of it all. Finally he was shown the galaxy of which our planetary system is but a small part. As the two of them drew near to the star which we call our sun and to its circling planets, the senior angel pointed to a small and rather insignificant sphere turning very slowly on its axis. It looked as dull as a dirty tennis ball to the little angel whose mind was filled with the size and glory of what he had seen.
‘I want you to watch that one particularly,’ said the senior angel, pointing with his finger.
‘Well, it looks very small and rather dirty to me,’ said the little angel. ‘What’s special about that one?’
‘That,’ replied his senior solemnly, ‘is the Visited Planet.’
”Visited’?’ said the little one. ‘You don’t mean visited by—’
‘Indeed I do. That ball, which I have no doubt looks to you small and insignificant and not perhaps overclean, has been visited by our Prince of Glory.’ At these words he bowed his head reverently… .
The little angel’s face wrinkled in disgust.
‘Do you mean to tell me,’ he said, ‘that He stooped so low as to become one of those creeping, crawling creatures of that floating ball?’
‘I do, and I don’t think He would like you to call them ‘creeping, crawling creatures’ in that tone of voice. For, strange as it may seem to us, He loves them. He went down to visit them to lift them up to become like Him.’
The little angel looked blank. Such a thought was almost beyond his comprehension.
‘Close your eyes for a moment,’ said the senior angel, ‘and we will go back in what they call Time.’
While the little angel’s eyes were closed and the two of them moved nearer to the spinning ball, it stopped its spinning, spun backward quite fast for a while, and then slowly resumed its usual rotation.
‘Now look!’ and as the little angel did as he was told, there appeared here and there on the dull surface of the globe little flashes of light, some merely momentary and some persisting for quite a time.
‘What am I seeing now?’ queried the little angel.
‘You are watching this little world as it was some thousands of years ago,’ returned his companion. ‘Every flash and glow of light that you see is something of the Father’s knowledge and wisdom breaking into the minds and hearts of people who live upon the earth. Not many people, you see, can hear His Voice or understand what He says, even though He is speaking gently and quietly to them all the time.’
‘Why are they so blind and deaf and stupid?’ asked the junior angel rather crossly.
‘It is not for us to judge them. We who live in the Splendor have no idea what it is like to live in the dark… . But watch, for in a moment you will see something truly wonderful.’
The Earth went on turning and circling round the sun, and then, quite suddenly, in the upper half of the globe there appeared a light, tiny, but so bright in its intensity that both angels hid their eyes.
‘I think I can guess,’ said the little angel in a low voice. ‘That was the Visit, wasn’t it?’
‘Yes, that was the Visit. The Light Himself went down there and lived among them… . Open your eyes now; the dazzling light has gone. The Prince has returned to His Home of Light. But watch the Earth now.’
As they looked, in place of the dazzling light there was a bright glow which throbbed and pulsated. And then as the Earth turned many times, little points of light spread out. A few flickered and died, but for the most part the lights burned steadily, and as they continued to watch, in many parts of the globe there was a glow… .
‘You see what is happening?’ asked the senior angel. ‘The bright glow is the company of loyal men and women He left behind, and with His help they spread the glow, and now lights begin to shine all over the Earth.’
‘Yes, yes,’ said the little angel impatiently. ‘But how does it end? Will the little lights join up with one another? Will it all be light, as it is in Heaven?’
His senior shook his head. ‘We simply do not know,’ he replied… . ‘The end is not yet. But now I am sure you can see why this little ball is so important. He has visited it… ‘
‘Yes, I see, though I don’t understand. I shall never forget that this is the Visited Planet.’
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
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