A Christmas Meditation: The Singing of Angels

Rev. Bruce G. Epperly, PhD

African American spiritual leader Howard Thurman invites us to awaken to the angels in our midst and the better angels of our own nature.


There must be always remaining in everyone’s life some place for the singing of the angels – someplace for that which in itself is breathlessly beautiful and by an inherent prerogative throwing all the rest of life into a new and created relatedness. Something that gathers up into itself all the freshets of experience from drab and commonplace areas of living, and glows in one bright light of penetrating beauty and meaning – and then passes. The commonplace is shot through now with new glory – old burdens become lighter, deep and ancient wounds lose much of their old, old hurting. A crown is placed over our heads that for the rest of our lives we are trying to grow tall enough to wear. Despite all the crassness of life, despite all the harshness of life, life is saved by the singing of angels.

During my years as a congregational pastor and university chaplain, the Christmas season was my favorite liturgical season. I delighted in carol sings, solstice services, the wonder of Christmas Eve, the living creche and Christmas stroll in our Cape Cod village, and ongoing celebrations lasting until Epiphany. Now that I am retired, I volunteer to preach the Sunday after Christmas, believing that the traditional “low Sunday” can be a spiritual highpoint and invitation to celebrate the incarnation in the New Year. Freed of responsibilities for several services, I now rejoice in a more spacious Christmas season that allows for visits with friends, devotional reading, and my yearly practice of celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Thurman’s words inspire me to stay awake during the Christmas season. Christmas is a “thin time,” to paraphrase Celtic wisdom, a time in which the divine and human meet in joyful companionship and holiness fills our days. Angels abound and can be experienced for those who keep their senses open. All of us need the aspiration that comes from an angelic encounter. We need, as Thurman counsels, a crown “placed over our heads that for the rest of our lives we are trying to grow tall enough to wear.”

In the spirit of the shepherds, we can open to angels coming into our lives, bringing tidings of great joy, opening our eyes to beauty, giving us second chances, and filling ordinary days with wonder. We can attend to the better angels of our nature and commit ourselves to bringing out the angelic in all of our encounters.

During this Christmas season, may you have the leisure to pause a moment to listen to the singing of the angels. With the shepherds, let us listen for the voice of the future calling you to holy adventures and then run with joy to our personal Bethlehem.

A Christmas Prayer. God of dreams and visions, awaken us to the angels in our midst. Open our senses to your birth in our lives and the world. Let us be midwives of hope and healing. Give us a broken and contrite heart for those who live in poverty, for the working poor, the homeless family, for the immigrant and refugee, and for the forgotten and lost. Let us remember that as we do unto the least of these, we do unto you, O God. In Christ’s name. Amen.

Bruce Epperly is a "retired" UCC and Disciples of Christ pastor, seminary professor and administrator, and author of over seventy books in theology, spirituality, health and healing, scripture, and ministerial spirituality and wellbeing, including “The Jubilee Years: Embracing Clergy Retirement,” “101 Soul Seeds for Grandparents Working for a Better World,” and “101 Soul Seeds for a Joyful Retirement.” His latest books are “Jesus: Mystic, Healer, and Prophet”; “Taking a Walk with Whitehead: Meditations on Process Theology”; “The Elephant is Running: Process and Relational Theologies and Religious Pluralism.” In July 2021, he was Senior Pastor of South Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Centerville, MA and returned to the DC area where he lives in Potomac, MD, and spends his days writing, teaching, walking, and spending time with his middle school grandchildren. He may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..