I often wonder who is organized and “grown up” enough to take down the Christmas decorations the day Christmas is over. Maybe you are – you have my utmost respect if you are that person. But looking around, I still see many houses with their Christmas decorations, their trees, their lights, their wreaths. Maybe they were like me, and left the house as soon as Christmas services were played to visit family far away and just now got back, or maybe they need to hang on to the feeling of light and peace for a little longer, or maybe “putting Christmas away” just feels like so much work, they just haven’t found the energy yet, maybe this, maybe that…
There is a poem that comes to mind as I drive around town seeing these “leftovers” of Christmas. It’s called “The Work of Christmas” by Howard Thurman, an author and civil rights leader of the twentieth century (I encourage you to look him up, he was a wonderful person).
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 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 all,
To make music in the heart.
So often as soon as the presents are unpacked, the guests fed, the decorations put away (or not), we want to be done with Christmas and move on to the next thing. But the Work of Christmas is something that happens all year round. As I read the description of that work in the poem, I think of the church and how the ELCA motto “God’s Work – Our Hands” reflects that work so well. Even as the song of the angels is stilled, our hymns and anthems still continue the words of the Work of Christmas. My prayer is that we may all be moved to continue the Work of Christmas throughout all of 2020 and beyond – with our songs, our hands, our words, our actions. If you want to “make music in the heart” a little bit more tangible and literal, come make music with us – in one of our choirs, or just by singing out a little bit more during our hymns – it may be just what your pew neighbor might need to hear that morning, or maybe what you yourself need to hear. The Work of Christmas begins with one note, one word, one action, with you, with me, with all of us, with God-with-us.