rev._joaquin_willis_3.jpg“But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit’.” -(Matthew 1:20)

As a child in a local grocery store, I saw a ball that had come out of its packaging. It seemed to beg me to take it. I thought to myself “why not just steal it; it’s already free?”

I looked up and down the long store isle to see if anyone was watching; I didn’t see anyone, so I reached out to put it in my pocket.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a voice said to me “You don’t want to do that.” Frightened, I looked up and there stood a lovely woman with an I-am-disappointed-in-you look on her face.

This was the day I began believing in angels. This woman scared me so badly, that I have never thought about stealing anything since. As a child, I believed she was an angel sent by God to stop me from a-would-be life of crime. I believe all of us have angels sent to speak to give us direction; if we would only listen, they will guide us right.

In the same way an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream (Matthew 1:20) and told him, “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife.”

He wasn’t trying to steal Mary, but since she was pregnant and he had not had sexual relations with her, he was thinking she was another man’s property.

When confronted with difficult decisions or facing problems that scare us, angels often appear, telling us first “not to be afraid.” Second, if we listen, they give us sound advice. But we must first compose ourselves by thinking and being receptive to their divine communications.

God graciously directs those who think about things before they act. As we consult ourselves we allow time for the appearance of angels. For instance, I thought long and hard about stealing that ball then suddenly there appeared my angel. It’s the thoughtful person, not the unthinking person, whom God uses angels to guide.

Thinking gives God’s angels time to intervene. In the scripture, Joseph was asleep when he awoke he did just what the angel commanded.  When we are relaxed and still, angels appear; our stillness somehow opens God’s divine communication lines.

It is hard to hear angels speaking in the midst of confusion. Joseph’s angel was no doubt Gabriel, the same angel who visited Mary (Luke 1:26. In both cases they were calm and compose. In fact, Joseph was asleep).

In today’s cell phone society, we see this principle over and again.

When there is confusion, traffic or static we get dropped calls.  This is when the other party on the line cries out “can you hear me now?” God sends these ministering angels to guide us toward our own good; but they move best during our calm moments.

The angel called, “Joseph thou Son of David,” which reminded him of his royal heritage, and the importance of his future. My angle did the same for me when she said “you don’t want to do that.” She reminded me of my upbringing, character, and that my destiny was not to be a thief.

Sometimes God sends angels to remind us of our duties and responsibilities. Even as children, they can cry out “value yourself.” Joseph was being told as a young man, you are to be more than a common carpenter. Joseph you are ‘A son of David’ one from whom the line of the Messiah is to come. “Why can’t the Son of God (Jesus) be your child?”

When we hear angels speaking about doing what is right, and we stop and listen, we are guided from doing wrong. Even as a child, when the angel spoke, I was embarrassed and ashamed.

I quickly dropped that ball and put it back where I found it.  As I looked up for approval, she disappeared. Gone without saying, “That’s a good boy!” But that was OK, because with her departure also went my shame and guilt.

  *Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door UCC in Miami’s Liberty City community. He may be reached at 305-759-0373 or