Angels Up, Angels Down, Angels Camped All Around

Angels Up, Angels Down, Angels Camped All Around 

By Pastor Brenda


The old Celts called them “thin places:” moments and locations bathed in holiness, depth, and connection with past, present, and future. The manger in Bethlehem was a thin place—a peek into God’s willingness to become so small and weak and dear we could not but love him.

The rocky hillside outside town where shepherds met angels singing praise was a thin place. I suspect anywhere Jesus ever lived and loved was a thin place for those who accompanied him. Certainly, the cross opened a window into God’s passionate love for his painfully violent people, and the empty tomb displayed the unstoppable life of God among us.

This November, I was tasked to recall an even more ancient thin place: Beth-el, the “house of God. There a man named Jacob on the run from his angry brother experienced God’s angels ascending and descending upon him and heard God’s voice declare: “Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go…” (Genesis 28:15) “Imagine Jacob’s Ladder, angels and all,” I was told, “connecting your odd and ordinary moments and days to the heart of heaven. Be free to connect the usual times—worship, prayer, and service. But think outside the box, too! And don’t forget the hard times, conflicts, challenges, losses, and the end of your rope.”

To be honest, I’m not great at this. I forget a lot. I was going to set a thin-place timer on my phone today, but till this very moment didn’t remember! Still, I’ve experienced much more awareness of God’s presence with this practice than I would have without it. I’m grateful. And thanks to Psalm 34 at worship and the “angel of the Lord encamped around us” (v. 7), I’ve found my mantra: Angels up (breathe out), Angels down (breathe in), Angels camped (breathe out) all around (back in)… repeat.

So, I extend the invitation to you: This Christmas Season imagine your own “God with you” Jacob’s Ladder connection to The Holy One. Let it look however you want—goodness knows what Jacob dreamed!

Already-magical moments of family and friends gathered, loved ones missed and mourned, music, story and song will come easy. Ordinary times on the way to work or school, at the beginning and the end of the day, doing dishes, laundry, and homework, paying the bills (and wondering where the Christmas gifts or winter utilities $ will come from this year!), checking email might be harder.

Yet in all of these moments, friends of Faith, God is with you and is keeping you, too. Aware of it or not, God is with us still. Angels up, Angels down, Angels camped all around. May many, many times and places be “thin” for you this Christmas, Friends! Pastor Brenda