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 flocks,
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
to make music in the heart.
Many of us are familiar with this poem written by Howard Thurman in The Mood of Christmas and Other Celebrations. It is a beautifully written piece that beckons us to understand Christmas as more than a day or even a season. We know that the world has already moved on from the holiday as Christmas carols have ceased and the accouterments in store windows have miraculously morphed into pink and red hearts.
But I do not believe this abrupt shift only occurs in the secular community. Even within the church, the transition away from Christmas and all that it entails gives way to either returning to our regularly scheduled worship services or preparing for Lent. The spirit of Christmas that moves many to visit nursing homes to sing carols or share a meal, the concern for feeding the hungry that takes us to food banks or community centers in November and December suddenly ceases. And yet, the need of the lonely and hungry continues. Even more importantly, our missional call to be the hands and feet of Christ does not dissipate after Christmas.
Thurman’s words remind us that the birth of Christ, the coming of “Emmanuel” – God with us – is the literal embodiment of God’s call to all disciples. Yes, the life of Christ is an example of how to resist temptation, remain faithful and obedient to God and sacrifice all else in pursuit of God’s call. It is also a living witness and testimony to the daily pouring out of love, healing, presence, advocacy
I have appropriated the phrase, “Transformed Lives Transform Lives” as a way of expressing my belief that as we are transformed by the gift of grace, we cannot help but live that transformation. As we have experienced God’s forgiveness, we will forgive others. As we have experienced God’s unconditional love, we will unconditionally love others. As we have experienced the presence of God in our darkest hours, we will offer the ministry of presence to others.
The kind of transformation I am referring to does not occur instantaneously. The moment John Wesley described as one’s “heart being strangely warmed” may occur in an ecstatic moment, but the real transformation is deepened through the disciplines of meditation, prayer, study, fasting
Over the last few
May we boldly and faithfully proclaim that this will be the year of deep discipleship and spiritual growth.
How can we make this prediction? Because we will be doing the work of Christmas every day.
We are planting flowers.