THE WORK OF CHRISTMAS
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 people, To make music in the heart.
–– Howard Thurman”The Work of Christmas” in The Mood of Christmas & Other Celebrations (1985)
The creche is still in place, but the greens and poinsettias have been removed from the church, and the windows sills are empty and bare – except for the candles that shine in the darkness. The Epiphany Pageant is history, and all the costumes are stored for another year. Children andteachers are back in school, and life has returned to whatever “normal” may mean for each of us.Our nation is in the midst of the challenges of a government shut-down, with those in power seemingly deadlocked and unwilling to move or compromise.
Many federal employees are on furlough or working without pay, and many government services are unavailable or severely limited. As happens all too often, those least able to afford it are paying the biggest price, whether that is on lost wages or further limited access to basic services. Let us pray for our nation, and for those who bear authority for governing, that they may do so with wisdom, compassion and care.
This Sunday we mark the Baptism of Christ. We see Jesus as an adult, coming with many other people to the Jordan River to be baptized by John the Baptist. Luke writes,
“Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Luke 3:21-22
And so begins the public ministry of Jesus. He would go on to preach and teach, heal the sick, feed the hungry and perform many miracles. Along the way he would gather many followers, twelve of whom would become his closest disciples. We are counted among that number in our own time, and the words of Howard Thurman quoted above provide us with an outline for this ongoing work of Christmas, which is, indeed, the ongoing work of Christ.
Let us pray:
Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
Peace and blessing,