By Patrice Donnell
In my childhood during Advent, our Dad loved reading to us “The Littlest Angel” by Charles Tazewell. It always moved me to tears, and gave this timid child hope to be brave about who God made me to be. The story takes place just before the birth of Jesus. A four-year-old boy from Jerusalem, recently arrived in Heaven, is The Littlest Angel. He’s also a misfit, disrupting all manner of decorum, singing off-key in the choir, losing his halo, and swinging on the pearly gates. He desperately misses being able to play on earth, and is admonished for his lack of grace. Nothing eases The Littlest Angel’s heart until finally, he asks for a small box of mementos from his earthly home, which brings him such joy that he becomes a paragon of angelic behavior.
As the Nativity draws near, all the Hosts of Heaven are invited to bring a gift for the Christ Child, to lay before the throne of God. The Littlest Angel ponders for a long while, then finally brings forth his meager, rough-hewn box, and lays it amidst the trove of exquisite, shining treasures. However, when the boy sees God’s light passing over the treasures to focus on his box, and then open it, he is suddenly struck by the unworthiness of his present. The author writes:
“And what was his gift to the Blessed Infant? Well there was a butterfly with golden wings, captured one bright summer day on the high hills of of 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 hot bitter tears, for now he knew that instead of honoring the Son of God, he had been most blasphemous. 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? In frantic terror, he turned to run and hide from the divine wrath of the Heavenly Father, but he stumbled and fell, and with a horrified wail and clatter of halo, rolled in a ball of consummate misery to the very foot of the heavenly throne!”
How many times have we feared that our gifts were meager in light of others?
How often have we been terrified to present ourselves as we are, as God sees us? How many of us have felt like stumbling, hopeless misfits in our world?
Then the author continues:
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 pleased 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.”How moving this is to me still. The misfit’s gift is authentic treasure in God’s eyes. No matter how humble our own talents may seem, God beckons us to bring them forth. Indeed, God can lift them beyond expectation, to become a light of hope leading others to Christ’s love.
So as children of God, no matter how old, young, or misfit we may be, let us be brave in faith.Let us present our hopeful gifts to the world.Let us realize that God LOVES who we are, and can magnify what we bring to others.
To read the full text of The Littlest Angel:
P.S. Books and movies about The Littlest Angel were originally produced in the 50’s and 60’s. Back then, the angel, who Charles Tazewell described as a brown-skinned boy from Jerusalem, was usually given blond hair and blue eyes. Some newer versions show him brown-skinned and Middle-eastern as the author intended.