A week ago Friday, the Marble Women’s Ministry sponsored its second Movie Night, and about a dozen women gathered in the comfy lounge on the 6th floor of Marble to watch The Bishop’s Wife. This 1947 black and white classic stars Cary Grant as Dudley, an angel who gets called into action by a prayer from an Episcopal Bishop named Henry. The Bishop is trying to have a new cathedral built, but is running into financial and political difficulties.
But Dudley’s mission is not to build the cathedral: his mission is to guide Henry and the people around him to discover their gifts and callings, to find the true and best loves in their lives. The bishop has become so obsessed with his work and the cathedral that he has neglected his unhappy wife, Julia (played by the beautiful Loretta Young) and their daughter. And Dudley brings out the best in everyone – he is suave and charming and everyone he meets instantly loves him. Dudley manages to lull an atheist professor to church, and he persuades a wealthy parishioner give her all funds away to the poor. Even animals sense he is special. Dudley takes care of Julia, miraculously providing her with everything she wants, and they have great fun together (the scene where they go ice skating together is an absolute hoot). They then unexpectedly find themselves attracted to each other. Henry grows jealous, and finally realizes that what he needs has been right in front of him all this time. He thought that his prayer had been for the cathedral to be completed, but really, his prayer was for guidance, which Dudley provided. Dudley departs, and all memory of him being is erased. The story ends on Christmas Eve, with all wrongs righted, and Henry and Julia back together and in love. Together with me now: Awww.
I couldn’t help but leave Marble that night thinking about how badly I wanted a Dudley: he is so charming yet mischievous, yet… angelic. How I would love to have such an angel to be there to hook arms with me and guide me, and to make minor miracles happen around me (being as handsome as Cary Grant wouldn’t hurt, either!) And after all, we pray and pray for things we think we need, like the bishop prays for the cathedral to be built. God often answers our prayers in unexpected ways, giving us instead what we truly need.
Angels play a big part in our Advent and Christmas stories: the angel visits Zechariah to announce the birth of John, the angel Gabriel visits Mary to announce the birth of Jesus, an angel tells Joseph that it is ok for him to marry Mary, and that they will name her son Jesus. Later, an angel announces the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, and a choir of angels sings praises to God. Their appearances were a big deal, revealing God’s plan to God’s people. They were surprising, and at times, overwhelming and frightening to those who experienced them (I doubt any of them quite resembled Cary Grant).
We all have angels in our lives. While I may not have a Dudley exactly, I know I’ve come into contact with spiritual beings who have brought God’s message to me, who have guided me and protected me, and I bet you have too. I’ve met many angels in the Marble congregation. Over the last two months, many of you have become “Angels for Prattsville:” you’ve donated money and resources to help our sister Reformed Church of Prattsville continue to recover from Hurricane Irene. You’ve been angels in smaller, every day ways, too. During this holy season, may we be able to see and appreciate the angels in our own lives, and may we see how we can be angels to others. We too can be as kind as Dudley, recognizing each other’s gifts, and bringing out the best in each other, spreading love like wildfire. Angels are God’s messengers, “the immaterial voice of God... God’s instrument.” We can make the most beautiful music.