The great poem The Work of Christmas by Howard Thurman reads:
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky in gone,
When the kings and the 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 nations,
To bring peace among all people,
To make music in the heart.
This poem speaks to me the gentle truth of Christmas. It is more meaningful than the things around us. It is bigger than the swelling of the pews this time of year. It is more lasting than the delicious things that grace the table. This truth is full of promise and purpose. The truth is that yes, you are found, the broken parts in you are mended, you are fed with nourishing things, freedom is now yours, you are rebuilt as you receive peace and a new song. We celebrate this work of God in us and around us. This has been the work of God that we observe through the ages and in our own lives today.
But the true message of Christmas is deeper than what we receive. It is also a quiet one and quite a mystery. The message of Christmas is that we are found, fed, and freed to bring these Christmas gifts to our friends, family, and neighbors in our own corner of the world. Christmas is less about what you receive and more about to whom you give hope, joy, peace, and love.
On this side of Christmas, we have opportunity. In our planning, organizing, inviting, shopping and cooking, start the work of Christmas before everything is put away. Set time aside to give thanks for the gifts you receive. Set time aside to be part of the gentle truth of Christmas–that is God is working in you. Now, you can serve others.
One of the best parts of Christmas is that people around the world set aside time each year to focus on some of the best things in life: hope, joy, peace, love given to us through Christ. And that we are chosen, not for special favors, but for the honor of carrying these things to our family, friends, and neighbors. Be the light of Christmas for someone this year.