The Christmas shows have now been watched, the music in the stores have returned to normal. Gifts have been unwrapped — and some returned to the stores. You may have seen a tree or two on the curb. Santa and Mrs. Claus have taken their furry red and white suits to the cleaners. The “Big Day” is over and we are trying to get back to normal.
Some people tend to feel a little “let down” after such an intense celebration. It takes intentional effort to keep the spirit of Christmas alive when it is over. So many things make it difficult to keep the momentum going.
Several years ago Howard Thurman, American author, philosopher, theologian, educator and civil rights leader, wrote a free-verse poem about taking Christmas beyond December 25.
WHEN THE SONG OF THE ANGELS IS STILLED
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the 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 people,
To make music in the heart.
All that preparation. The baking, sending cards, holiday parties and get-togethers. All that work for a thing we call Christmas. Hopefully you found meaning and purpose in the holiday season. I want to remind you that it is not over!
This week between Christmas and the beginning of a new year is a good time to remember resolutions and promises we make to ourselves, to God and to others. Did you keep the promises you made this past year, or will you need to try again?
God comes in Christ to free us so that we can respond by addressing the brokenness of this world. After all, God sends Jesus to lift up those who suffer, to free the captives and comfort those who mourn. Jesus sets the example that Howard Thurman describes in his poem — to find the lost, to heal the broken, to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner, to rebuild the nations, to bring peace.
This quote attributed to John Greenleaf Whittier expresses how living a life of service and commitment to others, not just at Christmas, but all year through, brings joy to the one who gives.
“For somehow, not only for Christmas, but all the long year through,
The joy that you give to others, is the joy that comes back to you;
And the more you spend in blessing the poor and the lonely and sad,
The more of your heart’s possessing, returns to make you glad.”
I think Thurman and Whittier have given us a similar invitation to live a life which yields the same joy we experience at Christmas. Christ’s self-giving love is a model for how we can find meaning and purpose in serving others. Merry Christmas to all!
Rev. Dr. Tamara Wilden is Director of Field Education at Methodist Theological School in Delaware, Ohio.