The Work of Christmas Begins
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 among the people,
to make music in the heart.
– by Howard Thurman (Thurman, a mentor of Martin Luther King Jr, was Chaplain at Boston University when the young King was doing his Ph.D. work there.)
It would be good to resolve to serve that work, to love it and to invest ourselves in it.
when he did his “local boy makes good,” homecoming sermon in Nazareth (Luke 4:18-21):
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
He was reading from Isaiah (61:1,2).
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
He was thus saying that the hoopla at Bethlehem – with angels, shepherds, wise men, the star etc. – was for the purpose of Jesus himself – doing precisely what he now said (there in the synagogue at Nazareth) that he came to do.
This is what Christmas was for.
It was for
- economic justice –
- proper behavior of and within the legal and criminal justice systems –
- health care, health ministry –
- justice for all who are oppressed, which includes economic justice, the victims of unjust imprisonment and other punishment systems, right down to elder abuse, spouse abuse, child abuse, all kinds and locations of abuse.
- And surely “all who are oppressed” includes those who are oppressed by one form or another of mental illness, addiction, obsession, anger, hate, fear, a variety of forms of dominating lust.
This is the “reason for the season.”
Jesus taught that these are the things Christmas happened for.
So Howard Thurman was right. The “work of Christmas” directly involves these things and things like these:
“to find the lost” – do you know anyone who is, one way or another, just plain lost?
“to heal the broken” – do you know anyone who is broken?
“to feed the hungry” – can we see the hungry? They are around us.
“to release the prisoner” – seriously. It surely needs doing in the USA which has more prisoners than any other nation on earth!
“to rebuild the nations” – is there any tension, fear, duplicity, danger, murder and destruction among the nations?
“to bring peace among the people” – ahh! How wonderful that is, and would be!
“to make music in the heart.” Oh ho! He gets to the basics within the heart of each of us!
And these things take WORK! By all kinds of people at all levels. If our lives are not truly in love with such work, in some practical ways involved in some of that work, then who do we think will do it? And what do we think Jesus would say about our priorities?
Why would we think that any who claim
- – to believe in Jesus
- – to truly know the reason for the season
- – to be committed to “Merry CHRISTmas” as against some less religiously approved greeting…
Why would we think that such people would not be obligated to do what Jesus Himself said was the reason he was there?
The world needs this.
Maybe we have found an area where it would be good to formulate some sort of New Year’s Resolution.