It’s Christmas morning, early. The Cicadas swarm the Eucalypts and their chorus is already very loud. They are joined by Kookaburras, Koels, Friar Birds and even carolling Magpies. It is as if the whole of nature is praising God on this special morning.
One of the images that often comes to my mind on this day is that which Celtic Christians often referred to as a ‘Thin Place’. A ‘Thin Place’ is a particular location where it is almost as though there is no barrier between the heavenly and earthly realms and God seems to be very close.
We see examples of such experiences in the Bible. For example, Jacob’s experience of a ‘Thin Place’ at Bethel, where he had a vision of heaven being open and angels ascending and descending on a ladder stretched between heaven and Earth.
‘Thin Place’ experiences occur today. There are times and places where God seems to be especially close. I have experienced them at various time; once in a small upstairs chapel almost hidden in the wall of the ancient cathedral of Lichfield in the English Midlands, reached by a very narrow stone staircase. It was totally silent, all sound being excluded by the thick stone walls. Another was in a Tea Tree woodland near Moore River in Western Australia, again a silent place with the only sound being the breeze rustling the leaves of the trees. Yet another was at night out in the Milky Way-lit Simpson Desert, the only sound being the distant mournful howl of a Dingo.
Then at this time of year we particularly remember the ‘Thin Place’ experience of the shepherds out on the Judean hills to whom the Angel announced the birth of the Messiah, and who were given a glimpse onto the heavens and of the Glory, the massive overpowering, terrifying, presence of God.
On this day however, we remember the most important, and ‘Thinnest Place’ of all, the place where the veil between Heaven and Earth melted away, where God wasn’t just close, but actually broke into our space-time in that Manger in Bethlehem- God with us – Emmanuel.
It is an incalculable tragedy, at the very time we celebrate the occurrence of the ‘Thinnest Place’, the coming of Christ into the world so that the barrier between us and God might be removed on the Cross, that so many now spend this time re-erecting that barrier by that veil of frenzied, ‘it’s all about family, or what I will get, or parties or holidays’ secular Christmas activity.
As we, and Nature’s chorus, celebrate this Christmas morning, it is perhaps worth taking some time to reflect on how in 2021 we can better communicate the Eternal meaning of God breaking in, of Emmanuel, at Bethlehem; the ‘Thinnest Place’ where infinite Love entered the world, to those with whom we have, or can create, contact and to a society which seems intent on blocking out that ‘Thinnest Place’. For-
‘God so loved the World that those who believe in Him
shall not perish but have Eternal Life’