“The Work of Christmas”
What comes to mind when you think about the work of Christmas?
For most of us, I suspect, it’s things like shopping, wrapping presents, decorating, cleaning the house, buying groceries and cooking Christmas dinner. It’s getting ready for Santa and opening presents. It’s getting to church or the computer on time (being in lockdown due to COVID-19) for the start of the Christmas service. I know for some it’s a lot of work just getting through these days. They’re hard days of grief, sadness, depression. For some the work includes planning the liturgies and preparing sermons. And this year a lot people worked hard making videos and ensuring that the technology worked. We do a lot of work leading up to and in anticipation of Christmas Eve.
And I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if on Christmas Day, after the child has been born and after the dishes have been done, there’s a collective sigh of relief that our Christmas work is done. But what if it’s really not? What if that’s when “the work of Christmas begins?”
That’s what Howard Thurman writes in his poem entitled “The Work of Christmas.”
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.
Have you ever thought that maybe “the work of Christmas” is what it means and looks like for the Word to become flesh and live among us (John 1:14)?
Maybe the Word becoming flesh and living among us is a momentary kind of thing, happening only in the moments when “the work of Christmas,” is being done. Maybe it’s less about a particular person and more about a way of being and living with each other.
I think most of us hear about the Word becoming flesh and living among us and we immediately assume it’s about Jesus. I don’t disagree with that. We see him enfleshing the Word of God throughout his life; enfleshing forgiveness, love, mercy, peace, gentleness, nonviolence, wisdom, compassion, generosity. That was his way of being and living.
So, yes, I do think the Word became flesh in Jesus. I just don’t think it is unique or exclusive to Jesus, as if Jesus is the only one in whom the Word became or can become flesh.
What about you and me? What about the Word becoming flesh in us?
Maybe the Word can and is intended to become flesh in us to the same degree it was in Jesus. Maybe that happens every time we offer compassion or mercy, in every moment when we do “the work of Christmas.”
Have you ever loved or forgiven another? Have you ever reached out to another with compassion or gentleness? Have you ever responded with nonviolence and peace? Have you ever fed the hungry or cared for the sick? Has someone else ever done those things to or for you?
If you answered yes to any one of those questions then you can also say, “And [once again] the Word became flesh and lived among us.”
It’s 5 days after Christmas and
… the song of the angels is stilled, … the star in the sky is gone, … the kings and the princes are home, [and] … the shepherds are back with their flock.
So, what about you and me? Where do we go from here? What’s next for us?
Well, Merry Christmas. It’s time “to make music in the heart.” There’s a Word of God desiring to become flesh in you and me. Merry Christmas.
Howard Thurman Poem – The Work of Christmas https://liturgy.co.nz/the-work-of-christmas-begins
The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings for Advent - John Piper
Hidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ - Timothy J Keller
The Case for Christmas: A Journalist Investigates the Identity of the Child in the Manger - Lee Strobel
The Greatest Gift - Ann Voskamp
Unwrapping the Names of Jesus: An Advent Devotional - Asheritah Ciuciu