The Work of Christmas

When the song of the angels is stilled, When the star in the sky is gone, When the kings and princes are home, When the shepherds are back with their flock, The work of Christmas begins: To find the lost, To heal the broken, To feed the hungry, To release the prisoner, To rebuild the nations, To bring peace among others, To make music in the heart. ~ Howard Thurman

Are the last of your Christmas decorations put away? The tree recycled or boxed? I finally got our’s put away and I already miss the white lights, garland, and bows that graced our windows. There’s a big empty spot in our living room where the tree added color and interest.

It’s back to life as usual…or is it? That’s why I love the quote from Howard Thurman mentioned above. For many, if not most, Christmas and the holiday season are time periods where we venture outside of our routines to gather with family and friends, participate in yearly traditions, enjoy festive music, The Nutcracker, open our wallets for the Salvation Army buckets or our favorite charities, be more mindful spiritually, maybe even attend worship services. It can also be a wonky mix of magic and stress. However we celebrate, it’s usually seen as a specific time-frame, bracketed between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

And there’s merit in all that. Christmas is God breaking into human history in the person of Jesus. It just doesn’t end with the birth of Christ.

That’s why I love the quote from Howard Thurman. While the birth of Jesus marks a new era, the life of Jesus marks a new way of life. If Advent is the anticipation of what is to come; and Christmas is the event; then after Christmas is the mission.

The holiday season makes us all aware of those less fortunate and gives us opportunities to respond generously. Offices adopt families for food baskets and gifts; end-of-year donations keep non-profits afloat; friends and families drop in at nursing homes to carol or visit. For the most part, they’re small efforts, pooled with others, to make a difference.

What if we continued our holiday mission throughout the year? I don’t think we all have to be Mother Teresas, but I’m sure we can think of something that we could easily do that would make a difference to others…and ourselves. Maybe it’s paying for a $5 gift card or purchasing few extra staples at the grocery store that goes to your local food pantry. Maybe it’s volunteering at your local senior center making a weekly call to a homebound person or driving them to a medical appointment. Maybe it’s taking the trash can to the curb for your neighbor who has difficulty managing it. Maybe it’s time to heed that nagging thought that persists to do that “something” you’ve been thinking about for awhile now: volunteering at your local soup kitchen or homeless shelter; reading to children or teaching literacy at your local library.

Now that Christmas 2010 is passed, what is the work of Christmas for you?

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