Look away now if easily shocked.
Blossom at the piano.
This week continuing the look at the Christmas story we examined the role of angels in it, and in other places where they crop up. Sean asked if anyone had had any angelic experiences. Blossom (above) recalled a time he'd run out of petrol on a motorway, a man in a car had stopped, picked him up, taken him to the nearest garage and then returned him to his bike. The Bible says we won't always recognise angels; maybe that was one. It sounded slightly more likely to my ears than the angel who crept up on Blossom when he was folding blankets - but maybe I'm too cynical.
A few years ago I ghost-wrote the autobiography of a New York cop who worked the Harlem beat. He reckoned he had met angels.
"When I arrived at the subway station, I ran down the steps to the platform. I heard the trouble before I saw it, the sounds of raised voices echoing up the steps. Ahead of me I saw a crowd of people jostling and pushing each other. In the midst of them was a cop. He was injured and I could see he was struggling to handcuff one guy who was mouthing off and resisting arrest. At that time of night, some of the people you find on subways aren't the type to be very helpful to the police, and this crowd was no different. They were insulting and harassing the cop, trying to prevent the arrest. They didn't notice me arrive so, with the element of surprise on my side, I burst through the crowd and took hold of the prisoner before they could stop me. This made them really mad and they turned on me. I heard someone shout, 'Throw the cop onto the tracks.' Arms grabbed me and pushed me towards the edge of the platform. I had to let go of the prisoner as I struggled to resist but there were too many of them and I could feel myself getting closer and closer to the train tracks. Coming from inside the tunnel I could see two enormous yellow headlights bearing down the tracks and I could hear the roar of the train getting louder as it got closer. Just as I was on the edge of the platform, about to be pushed onto the tracks, I cried out, 'Jesus, help me!'
Suddenly two big black guys appeared out of the crowd, pushing people aside. 'Officer, follow us,' one of them said. 'Sure, I'll follow you anywhere,' I said, gratefully. Because the crowd was caught by surprise, I was able to get hold of the prisoner again before we made our way up out of the subway. The two black guys went in front, clearing the way, and the injured cop came behind me, his hand on my shoulder. Up on the street I pushed the prisoner into the back of the waiting patrol car, and turned round to thank the guys who had saved us, but there were crowds of people milling around and I couldn't see them anywhere. I didn't want to hang around so I shouted out, 'Thanks for your help, guys,' and climbed into the back seat next to the prisoner. 'C'mon, let's go,' I said.
The wounded cop was sitting up front next to the driver and as we left the scene he turned around to me and said, 'Mike, that was some job you did getting the prisoner through the crowd.'
'Yeah, I thought we were done for,' I said. 'Thank God for those two guys going ahead of us pushing people aside.'
'What two guys?'
'The two black guys who were pushing the crowds out of the way.'
'I didn't see no black guys helping us.'
'You must have seen them. They were talking to us, told us to follow them.'
'I didn't hear nothing.'I was puzzled. I'd definitely seen and heard these two guys who had saved us. If it hadn't been for them, I figured I'd have been dead by now. But why hadn't the other cop seen them? Just then some words from the Bible came into my head. 'Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to help believers?' (Hebrews 1:14)
'Naah,' I thought, 'it can't have been.'
But I couldn't get the possibility out of my mind. I was a believer and I had certainly needed help. I stored the memory in my head and in my heart but I didn't tell many people about it. It's not a smart thing to do, telling New York people that you're a cop who sees angels!"