As Howard Thurman wrote in his eloquent book of meditations The Mood of Christmas & Other Celebrations, “the work of Christmas” now begins.
But I’m sure His Greatness Thurman would have agreed that “the work of Christmas” never ends, being the endless “labor of love” that it is.
I posted the following blurb on my Facebook page on Christmas Eve and I’m sharing it here since it garnered a considerable number of Facebook “likes” and “shares”:
Mother Teresa said:
“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty.”
By Mother’s measure, a lot of people are living in poverty who are by no means hungry or clothed in somebody’s thrown-away threads or living in cars.
Rather than fretting over a media-manufactured “War on Christmas,” try doing this to observe Christmas in the remainder of the Christmas season:
Just go out and be Christmas!
That is, get out of the house and the mall and go be the SPIRIT of Christmas–which is to be the Spirit of Christ–by going to see someone who feels unwanted, unloved or uncared for.
Call, or better yet call and then go by and see those who suffered losses of their loved ones this year (or last year for that matter, as grief has no time limit), and just let them know you are thinking of them and that you know it must be hard for them at this time of year. And then just be quietly present with them, without trying to lift them up or make them feel good if they’re not feeling so joyous right now. (Trying to “rescue” someone from their grief by trying to make them happy is seldom an effective way of helping someone in grief anyway, no matter how good the intention.)
But to “be Christmas,” you might also take some of that leftover food you’ll cram into the fridge tonight to people who indeed are hungry and cold and feeling unwanted in a nation that can be nothing short of hostile to those who are in fact hungry, naked and homeless.
Go into the world nearest you and just make someone feel loved, wanted and cared for. Go and feed someone; go and be with the sick and grieving; start ASAP to know a prisoner on a personal level and show him or her what “the love that came down at Christmas” looks like and acts like.
That’s what “being” Christmas is about.
So that’s what I posted on Christmas Eve. Then today on Facebook, a friend and colleague in ministry posted the following wisdom from Howard Thurman, he who was one of the greatest of preachers and peacemakers in the last century:
The exhausting, consumer-driven, Dec. 25th Christmas that most people of all faiths and no faiths observe to some extent in wealthy countries is over (and none too soon).
Now comes the sometimes difficult challenge for devout followers of Christ to live out Christmas–to keep the faith and live the “Good News” in the ordinary days that fill the calendar. As Thurman put it, “the work of Christmas” begins. And that sacrificial work can be a difficult challenge indeed.
And yet as difficult as “the work” of Christian living can be–and anything of value requires hard work and all the blood, sweat and sacrifice that goes with it–the difficulty or challenge of Christian labor, of living out the birth as well as the life, ministry, sacrifice and resurrection of Christ day in and day out, turns out to be its own reward.
The joy of the secular-driven Christmas runs a mile wide and an inch deep. The truest joy in life is sustained by the living waters drawn daily–365 days a year–from the deep wells of salvation. (See “the Christmas Prophet” Isaiah, Isa. 12: 3.)