The Littlest Angel

The Littlest Angel
From the story by Charles Tazewell
 
Once upon a time—many, many years ago as time is calculated by men, but only
yesterday in the Celestial Calendar of Heaven—there was, in Paradise, a
thoroughly unhappy, and dejected cherub who was known throughout Heaven as the
Littlest Angel.
 
He was exactly four years, six months, five days, seven hours and forty-two
minutes of age when he presented himself to the Gate-Keeper and waited for
admittance to the Glorious Kingdom of God.
 
Standing defiantly, he tried to pretend that he wasn’t at all afraid.  But
his lower lip trembled, and a tear disgraced him by making a new furrow down his
already tear-streaked face.
 
But that wasn’t all. While the kindly Gate-Keeper was entering the name in
his great book, the Littlest Angel, having left home as usual, without a
handkerchief, tried to hide the tell-tale evidence by sniffing. A most unangelic
sound, which startled the good Gate-Keeper that he did something he had never done
before in all eternity. He blotted he page!
 
From that moment on, the Heavenly Peace was never quite the same. The shrill,
ear-splitting whistle of the Littlest Angel could be heard at all hours
through the golden streets. It startled the Patriarch Prophets and disturbed their
meditations. Yes, and on top of that, he sang off-key at the singing practice
of the Heavenly Choir, spoiling its ethereal effect.
 
And, being so small that it seemed to take him just twice as long as anyone
else to get to nightly prayers, the Littlest Angel always arrived late, and
knocked everyone’s wings askew as he darted into his place.
 
Although his behavior might have been overlooked, his appearance was even
worse. It was first whispered among the Seraphim and Cherubim, and then said
aloud among the Angels and Archangels, that he didn’t even look like an angel!
 
And they were all quite correct. He didn’t. His halo was permanently
tarnished where he held onto it with one hot little hand when he ran, and he was
always running. Even when he stood very still, it never behaved as a halo should.
It was always slipping down over his right eye. Or over his left eye. Or else,
just for pure meanness, slipping off the back of his head and rolling away
down some Golden street just so he’d have to chase after it!
 
Yes, and his wings were neither useful nor ornamental. All Paradise held its
breath when the Littlest Angel perched himself like a sparrow on the very edge
of a cloud and prepared to take off. He would teeter this way—and that way—
but, after much coaxing and a few false starts, he would shut both of his eyes,
hold his freckled nose, count up to three hundred and three and then hurl
himself slowly into space!
 
However, owing to the fact that he forgot to move his wings, the Littlest
Angel always fell head over halo!
 
It was also reported that whenever he was nervous, which was most of the
time, he bit his wing-tips!
 
Now anyone can easily understand why the Littlest Angel would sooner or later
have to be disciplined. And so, on an Eternal Day of an Eternal Month in the
Year Eternal, he was directed to present his small self before an Angel of the
Peace.
 
The Littlest Angel combed his hair, dusted his wings and donned an almost
clean garment, and then, with a heavy heart, trudged his way to the place of
judgment.
 
He tried to postpone the ordeal by pausing a few moments to read the long
list of new arrivals, although all Heaven knew he couldn’t read a word. But at
last he slowly approached a doorway on which was mounted a pair of golden
scales, signifying that Heavenly Justice was dispensed within. To the Littlest Angel’
s great surprise, he heard a merry voice inside—singing!
 
The Littlest Angel removed his halo and breathed upon it heavily; then
polished it upon his garment, which added nothing to his already untidy appearance,
and then tip-toed in!
 
The Singer, who was known as the Understanding Angel, looked down at the
small culprit, and the Littlest Angel instantly tried to make himself invisible by
the ingenious process of pulling his head into the collar of his garment,
very much like a snapping turtle.
 
At that, the singer laughed, a jolly, heartwarming sound, and said “Oh! So you
’re the one who’s been making Heaven so unheavenly! Come here, Cherub, and
tell me all about it!”
 
The Littlest Angel ventured a look. First one eye. And then the other eye.
Suddenly, almost before he knew it, he was perched on the lap of the
Understanding Angel, and was explaining how very difficult it was for a boy who suddenly
finds himself transformed into an angel. Yes, and no matter what the
Archangels said, he’d only swung once. Well, twice. Oh all right then, he’d swung
three times on the Golden Gates. But that was just for something to do!
 
That was the whole trouble. There wasn’t anything for a small angel to do.
And he was very homesick. Oh, not that Paradise wasn’t beautiful! But the Earth
was beautiful, too! Wasn’t it created by God, Himself? Why, there were trees
to climb, and brooks to fish, and caves to play a pirate chief, the swimming
hole, and sun, and rain, and dark, and dawn, and thick brown dust, so soft and
warm beneath your feet!
 
The Understanding Angel smiled, and in his eyes shown a memory of another
small boy from long ago. Then he asked the Littlest Angel what would make him
most happy in Paradise. The cherub thought for a moment, and whispered in his ear.
 
“There’s a box. I left it under my bed back home. If only I could have that?”
 
The Understanding Angel nodded his head. “You shall have it,” he promised.
And a fleet-winged Heavenly Messenger was instantly dispatched to bring the box
to paradise.
 
And then, in all those timeless days that followed, everyone wondered at the
great change in the Littlest Angel. For among all the cherubs in God’s
Kingdom, he was the most happy. His conduct and appearance was all that any angel
could wish for. And it could be said, and truly said, that he flew like an angel.
Then it came to pass that Jesus , the Son of God, was to be born of Mary, of
Bethlehem, of Judea. And as the Glorious tidings spread through Paradise, all
the angels rejoiced and their voices were lifted to herald the Miracle of
Miracles, the coming of the Christ Child.
 
The Angels and Archangels, the Seraphim and Cherubim, the Gate-Keeper, the
Wing-Maker, yes, and even the Halo-smith put aside their usual tasks to prepare
their gifts for the Blessed Infant. All but the Littlest Angel. He sat himself
down on the top-most step of Paradise and thought.
 
What could he give that would be most acceptable to the Son of God? At one
time, he dreamed of composing a hymn of adoration. But the Littlest Angel was
lacking in musical talent.
 
Then he grew excited over writing a prayer! A prayer that would live forever
in the hearts of men, because it would be the first prayer ever to be heard by
the Christ Child. But the Littlest Angel was to small to read or write. “
What, oh what, could a small angel give that would please the Holy infant?”
 
The time of the Miracle was very close a t hand when the Littlest Angel at
last decided on his gift. Then, on the Day of Days, he proudly brought it from
its hiding place behind a cloud, and humbly placed it before the Throne of God.
It was only a small, rough, unsightly box, but inside were all those
wonderful things that even a Child of God would treasure!
 
A small, rough, unsightly box, lying among all those other glorious gifts
from all the Angels of Paradise! Gifts of such radiant splendor and beauty that
Heaven and all the Universe were lighted by their glory. And when the Littlest
Angel saw this, he suddenly wished he might reclaim his shabby gift. It was
ugly. It was worthless. If only he could hide it away from the sight of God
before it was even noticed!
 
But it was too late! The Hand of God moved slowly over all that bright array
of shining gifts, then paused, then dropped, then came to rest on the lowly
gift of the Littlest Angel!
 
The Littlest Angel trembled as the box was opened, and there, before the Eyes
of God and all His Heavenly Host, was what he offered to the Christ Child.
And what was his gift to the Blessed Infant? Well, there was a butterfly with
golden wings, captured one bright summer day on the hills above Jerusalem, and a
sky-blue egg from a bird’s nest in the olive tree that stood to shade his
mother’s kitchen door. Yes, and two white stones, found on a muddy river bank,
where he and his friends had played like small brown beavers, and, at the bottom
of the box, a limp, tooth-marked leather strap, once worn as a collar by his
mongrel dog, who had died as he had lived, in absolute love and infinite
devotion.
 
The Littlest Angel wept. Why had he ever thought the box was so wonderful?
 
Why had he dreamed that such utterly useless things would be loved by the
Blessed Infant?
 
He turned to run and hide, but he stumbled and fell, and with a cry and
clatter of halo, rolled in a ball to the very foot of the Heavenly Throne!
 
There was an ominous silence in the Celestial City, a silence complete and
undisturbed save for the sobbing of the Littlest Angel.
 
Then suddenly, the Voice of God, like Divine Music, rose and swelled through
Paradise!
 
And the Voice of God spoke, saying, “Of all the gifts of all the angels, I
find that this small box pleases Me most. Its contents are of the Earth and of
men, and My Son is born to be King of both. These are the things My Son, too,
will know and love and cherish and then, regretful, will leave behind Him when
His task is done. I accept this gift in the Name of the Child, Jesus, born of
Mary this night in Bethlehem.”
 
There was a breathless pause, and then the rough box of the Littlest Angel
began to glow with a bright, unearthly light, then the light became a lustrous
flame, and the flame became a radiant brilliance that blinded the eyes of all
the angels!
 
None but the Littlest Angel saw it rise from its place before the Throne of
God. And he, and only he, watched it arch the firmament to stand and shed its
clear, white, beckoning light over a Stable where a Child was Born.
 
There it shone on that Night of Miracles, and its light was reflected down
the centuries deep in the heart of all mankind. Yet, earthly eyes, blinded, too,
by its splendor could never know that the lowly gift of the Littlest Angel
was what men would call forever “The shining star of Bethlehem!”