I paused while trimming our Christmas tree to examine the angel that traditionally topped our tree. It had been in our family ever since we were married. But after close examination, I decided not to use the angel another year. Its once shiny wings were tarnished, and the pretty white robe had turned slightly gray.
Well, maybe now was a good time to shop for a couple books I wanted to buy for friends, and at the same time pick out a new angel.
At the Christian bookstore, I enjoyed browsing among all the books and records and gifts. Then on one table, I noticed an ornament with a little sign in front of it. "Give Christ the uppermost place on your tree." It was a beautiful silver star centered with a nativity picture that could be illuminated with a small bulb. I decided this was truly a more suitable topping for our tree then the tarnished angel.
Back home again I soon fitted the star on top of the tree. And the family agreed that the star was even prettier than the angel had been even at its best.
The next afternoon I filled a small basket with gifts for Mrs. Coleman, a shut-in friend from church, and drove to her home. She instituted I stay for tea and the next hour sped by while we chatted.
"By the way," Mrs. Coleman commented, "our new pastor is such a godly man. Why he's been to visit me a number of times already, loaned me several books from his library and brought me tapes of his sermons too. The congregation must love him. We are indeed fortunate to have such a conscientious man as our pastor."
I tried to stifle the critical words that were on the tip of my tongue. What Mrs. Coleman didn't know was that the honeymoon was over as far as the majority of the congregation was concerned. Disenchantment had set in.
"Well," I conceded, "he does have his good points, but I don't think he will be around too long. He comes on a bitstrong when you hear him preach three times a week. Some of us believe we need someone different in the pulpit."
The older woman's blue eyes turned from a soft powder blue to almost black. They reminded me of a stormy sky before a deluge. Shaking a long, bony finger at me, Mrs. Coleman scolded, "I'm surprised at you! Why, I always thought so highly of you. I considered you my Own ministering angel. But you've just toppled off your pedestal and tarnished your wings, in my estimation. Why, the Bible warned us, 'Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm' (Psalm 105:15). How dare you criticize God's servant?"
I was left speechless by my usually gentle friend's spirited rebuke. I reached for my coat and excused myself, murmuring, "I really must go now. The children will be home from school soon."
On the way home, I searched my heart and soon realized that Mrs. Coleman had been right. I deserved her censure. Here the pastor was trying to lead his his congregation to a closer relationship with the Lord, and we were all rebelling. Like balky sheep, we were reluctant to follow the loving leadership of our shepherd. Also, because of my failure to yield control of my tongue to the Holy Spirit, I had sinned with my words. All in all, like the angel that used to be atop our tree, my spiritual clothing was in need of repair. Upon arriving home, I knelt in prayer and rededi cated both my life and tongue to the Lord.
As I rose from my knees, the telephone rang. It was Mrs. Coleman, she said, "My dear, please forgive me for scolding you the way I did. I am truly sorry I was so outspoken. I could have been more gracious.
"You're such a lovely Christian. I've always admired you and perhaps I even idolized you. This is wrong. People always topple from pedestals because they are human. Only the Lord Jesus is perfect."
I explained that her rebuke had started me thinking, and that I realized the Holy Spirit was working through her to speak to my heart. I promised her that instead of finding fault with our pastor, from now on I would pray for him.
She seemed relieved that I was not offended, saying, "I guess I was disappointed when you stepped out of your usual consistent Christian character and exhibited feet of clay."
Later that day I retrieved the tarnished angel from the "junk drawer" in my room. Placing it on my dresser, I mused, "You'd better keep this angel in a spot where it can remind you daily of the need to walk close to the Lord. From now on, let the Holy Spirit have full control of your life and your lips."