Friday, December 22, 2006

The Work of Christmas

When the star in the sky is gone,
When the Kings and Princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost
To heal the broken
To feed the hungry
To release the prisoner
To teach the nations
To bring Christ to all
To make music in the heart.
Howard Thurman

It is not only my favorite Christmas verse – this poem by Howard Thurman – it’s also my Christmas life preserver. It’s what I pull out and put on when I find myself floating in the vast sea of all there is to do, find, buy, wrap, bake, cook, plan and finish as the clock ticks down to the Christmas event.

It’s hard to keep your head above water when the culture is crazed, the media relentless, the pressure to “get it right” is everywhere. Ironic, isn’t it, that the very season that offers the message of “Peace on Earth, Good Will to All” brings instead “Stress on Earth, Bad Temper” to many!

And so – every year – Howard Thurman reminds me that the real work of Christmas isn’t about trees and tinsel but about peace and justice. “The Work of Christmas” calls us to resist the greatest temptation of all this blessed Christmas season: to “put Christ into Christmas” only to leave him there — to receive with joy the gift of the Word made flesh on this Christmas Eve and fail to live as the Body of Christ the other 364 days of the year.

And so as we celebrate the Christmas miracle of our brother Jesus born of our sister Mary — with all of its beloved trappings and traditions — may we also be given the grace to bring the hope of Christmas alive in the year ahead.

May we be given the courage to refuse to leave Christ only in Christmas but to follow in his footsteps by doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with our God “in season and out of season.” And may we be given the energy and imagination to ask “what child is this” of each and every member of God’s beloved human family as we go out to do the work of Christmas.


Ann said...

Too weird - the He Qi pix was my other choice for my Christmas blog. I think Work of Christmas will be my post Christmas base. Thanks

PeaceBang said...

I use the Thurman reading as a benediction at both our Christmas Eve services. Thank you.

Caminante said...

This summer at the ELCA/Episcopal Global Mission Event in Amherst, MA, He Qi was the featured artist and one of the keynote speakers. His work is gorgeous and he was eloquent in describing his journey to becoming the artist he is. Lee


I loved this piece the second I saw it and saved it with this Christmas blog in mind. Feliz Navidad, all!

JimB said...

And let the people say, "Amen."

Happy Christmas one and all.

May the peace and joy we experience as we celebrate messiah's coming sustain us in the times ahead.


W said...

Susan, the picture and the name led me to a site showcasing Christian artwork by Asian artists. Racial reconciliation is one theme of my blog, so I have posted some of the Nativity scenes I found. (My subtitle says fire and judgment on those who violate human rights etc, but I say nice things sometimes.)

I am very grateful.

richardfhorton said...

Today, I went to a unitarian church for the first time while I was in VA staying with my best friend of 20 years and his two children. Having lost my mother this year and having been fired weeks later from my job after 14 years, I have been very lost. But when I saw Howard Thurman's quote in the book we were reading from, it took me away to what I believe in and stand for my entire life and I will never forget that moment, standing there in the church, with my best friend and his children standing beside me, reading
"The Work of Christmas Begins." I have been suffering from depression for several months, but there, in that moment and time, I was touched by words that spoke to my heart and helped heal me for the day. Thank you Howard Thurman. Peace and Love to you all.

Tracy said...

I wanted to thank you for having this quote available. I am on my way to a youth meeting at my Epis. church in Rome, Ga and I told them I would bring a reading for tonight. This is one of my favorites and I had it on a Christmas card but apparently already put it away and couldn't remember the author so I googled "the real work of Christmas" and found myself here. What is so important about that? Well I see that you are a priest at
All Saints in Pasedena and so you must be close to my son's Godfather and my dear family friend Ed Bacon. It is a small world. Please give him and Hope my love and thanks for being here today! Tracy Woolf Schroeder, rome, GA

Sweaver said...

Hi Susan,
I just stumbled on your blog as I was looking for writings by Howard Thurman. Good thoughts.
Could you tell me who is the artist of the nativity scene?


He Qi