They look like giant bibs, or maybe just gaudy jackets. The Victoria & Albert Museum in London had several. Truth be told, the V&A (as it’s known) is full of several of just about everything. It’s called “the attic of the empire” for a reason. It’s enormous. By the third hour wandering its galleries with my family on vacation this summer, I was ready for a break. In the gift shop, I found—gulp—another tabard, this one sized for a baby. Tabards are apparently a thing with the British.
You see, a tabard was worn by a herald. A herald was a royal messenger, sent to deliver proclamations to neighboring kingdoms. The tabards were their uncomfortable uniform.
“Hark the herald angels sing, ‘Glory to the newborn King!’…” we belt out every December. The angels in our drawings and lining up in our pageants wear white bathrobes, though. Maybe they should have been wearing tabards.
After all, the angels were royal messengers, sent by God from the kingdom of heaven to proclaim to the earth that a Prince of Peace had arrived.
“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:13-14).
Maybe we need to start dressing our preschoolers in tabards on Christmas Eve, after all.
The proclamation these heralds came to deliver was one of “peace and goodwill toward men.” The word traditionally translated “men” means “people,” so we don’t need to get hung up on it. The proclamation is for all people, young or old, rich or not so rich, working hard or looking for work, certain or confused, hurting or whole, or all of the above.
Peace and goodwill are in short supply for many of us. Hope comes and goes, until the herald arrives to bring good news.
Remember “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” in which the horrible Herdman kids arrive to wreck the Christmas pageant? Gladys is the Angel of the Lord, who hurdles herself down the aisle of the church, hollering, “’Hey! Unto you a child is born!’ as if it was, for sure, the best news in the world.”
It is the best news the world has ever or will ever hear. Of course, to hear the proclamation, we’ve got to open our ears and our hearts. We’ve got to summon the courage to believe that healing and wholeness and love are possible.
It was the late Frederick Buechner who gently suggested, “Turn around and believe that the good news that we are loved is better than we ever dared hope, and that to believe in that good news, to live out of it and toward it, to be in love with that good news, is of all glad things in this world the gladdest thing of all.”
Now, that’s a proclamation we can trust, by any herald who delivers it, tabard or not.
Photo credit: http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O115774/tabard-unknown/