The Wonder and Work of Christmas

Somewhere around Thanksgiving I start to feel uneasy about Christmas and my increasing lack of connectedness to it. The relentless bombardment of advertising for endless sales feels like psychological warfare, an assault reinforced by the inescapable ambient noise of tinny carols. I worry about people who do not have much, the financial pressure they live with all year mounting to a crescendo at Christmastime. My heart is always with addicts and people suffering from mental illness and those who love them. Christmas does not necessarily bring a break in abusive situations. Holidays can be stressful for so many.

Yet somehow, some way, the wily wonder of Christmas will woo me.

This year I am awed as I follow the Facebook page of a friend of a friend, parents who have a two-year-old battling cancer. Their courage, faith and strength make me marvel anew at the boundless capacity of love.

My colleague routinely updates us on a refugee Afghani family he and his congregation are journeying with: finding them an apartment, taking them to medical exams, lining up ESOL classes and helping to find employment, welcoming the stranger.

On a favorite annual trip with friends to Old Ebbitt Grill in Washington, DC, we are delayed for a moment by a homeless man selling copies of his book, Homeless Lives Matter. Indeed, they do. After a delightful hour or so inside, as we prepare to leave, one of my friends witnesses the bartender refusing another homeless man’s money, handing him a beer on the house, restoring my faith in the generous, compassionate heart. Everyone deserves dignity.

I love decorated trees, the smell of holly and greens. I am enchanted by the lights that deck the streets, the halls and just about everything in sight. I relish traditions with friends and family. And I confess I cannot make it through a verse of Silent Night without crying. It’s not Christmas I am not connected to–it’s the commercialization of it. But I should know better by now; wonder cannot be short-circuited or smothered.

My favorite Christmas poem is Howard Thurman’s The Work of Christmas. May we all know the wonder and light of this season and remember the work of it always.

The Work of Christmas
by Howard Thurman

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 flock,

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 brothers,

To make music in the heart. 


4 Replies to “The Wonder and Work of Christmas”

  1. I agree, Jan. The anticipation of Christmas has a way of deflating my joy at this time of year. Maybe because I don’t have kids and a family to enjoy opening endless gifts under a giant tree as shown in every other commercial. And I think of so many others all over the world much less fortunate in countless ways for countless reasons, and it breaks my heart. But then, I also count my immeasurable amount of blessings, and I am so thankful beyond words. While I never lose sight of those in difficult and heartbreaking situations, as I pray for all the innocent people on earth who need a miracle, I remind myself of all I have to be grateful for. And then Christmas turns into a meaningful appreciation of my gifts from God, rather than a holiday of traditional materialistic gift giving that has become a booming money-making business. The “anticipation” of Christmas is for many the hope they will get that special gift they’ve been hinting at. What I want is priceless – health, happiness, love, for myself and all those I love… As long as I have those, as long as everyone I care about is okay, it is truly Christmas every day.

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