The high priest, together with his allies, the Sadducees, was overcome with jealousy. They seized the apostles and made a public show of putting them in prison. An angel from the Lord opened the prison doors during the night and led them out. The angel told them, “Go, take your place in the temple, and tell the people everything about this new life.”
Clarence: You sent for me, sir?
Senior Angel: Yes, Clarence. A man down on earth needs our help.
Clarence: Splendid. Is he sick?
Senior Angel: No, worse. He’s discouraged. At exactly 10:45 pm earth time, that man will be thinking seriously about throwing away God’s greatest gift.
Clarence: Oh, dear, dear. His life.
It’s easy to overlook Clarence Odbody, AS2, in the classic Christmas film, It’s a Wonderful Life. He’s an “angel, second class,” way behind his peers as far as “wing acquisition” and personal achievement goes. He’s a kind of heavenly parallel to Uncle Billy — sweet and jovial, but distracted and irresponsible. The Sr. Angel stands before the Angel, Joseph, discussing who to send to help George Bailey and reminds him that they’ve passed Clarence every time when it came to rescuing mortals in times of need. Because, “Well, you know, he has the IQ of a rabbit.” But Joseph just laughs and says, “Yes, but he has the faith of a child. Simple. Send Clarence.”
In our scripture for today, Acts 5:17-20, the text says an angel freed the apostles from prison and instructed them to “go and stand in the temple and speak to the people the words of Life.”
Sometimes the most profound, healing, and empowering words one can offer come from the simplest witness to life. In the face of complicated, twisted logic or cultural anxiety and fear or deeply-rooted personal doubts about one’s meaning or purpose for living, a friend’s simple reminder on how we impact one another’s life is all that may be needed to reconnect us to who we are (and who we’re called to be). Clarence offers this simple, honest reflection on the significance of how life connects to life and how truly wonderful that simple awareness can be for those who learn to see it and remember it.
As Robert Fulgum wrote, aren’t we just fragments of “ . . . a mirror whose whole design and shape [we] do not know. Nevertheless, with what [we] have — [we] can reflect light into the dark places of this world . . . and change something in some people.”
We are reminded how profound the simple witness to the significance of one another’s lives can be. “Speaking to Life” connects us to life even more deeply. It saved George’s life and even earned Clarence his wings.
This Season of Light, speak to Life and see if you don’t “feel a bit lighter,” as well!
In this season of Light, may we reflect upon the witness to love and grace with which others have touched our lives. As we gratefully acknowledge the small gestures and the grand sacrifices of others, may we remember that we are like fragments of a mirror reflecting the love and goodness of God into this world. Amen.