Howard Thurman was a pastor, preacher, poet, theologian, educator, and chaplain in his career. His writings are among the collection of books in my library. I often share his reflection on the aftermath of Christmas and what it should mean for the ‘practicing’ Christian.
We are called to practice our faith. And Howard Thurman in this short poem, reminds us what it is to practice our faith.
What does finding the lost look like going into the year 2022? More specifically, what will it look like for me, for you, for our community of St. Matthew? Where will we look? For whom will we seek? Those who appear to have everything but Jesus? Those who have nothing? Those who confess being lost; those who are content with the absence of something bigger than themselves in this life? Ever think that by looking for the lost, you just might find Jesus in places you would never guess?
How can we heal the broken? What means do we have to do this kind of work? Brokenness of body is one thing, but whether physically or emotionally broken, those among us need care. Care in binding up wounds, hurts, ills through listening, being present, being attentive, being loving. And who among us can claim an absence of brokenness in our lives?
I celebrate that this next work of Christmas, to feed the hungry, we do in many ways. The community meal, the support of the Family Resource Network food pantry, support of Our Neighbor, and whenever the backpack program will be reinitiated, we attend to the mission of feeding the hungry.
Where do we go to release ‘the prisoner’? That depends on where we may focus our attention to where there are prisoners. How might we help release those who are chained to addiction and substance use disorder? those bound by debt? those entangled in abusive relationships?
How might we as a community of faith, begin to rebuild the nations? Perhaps this needs to begin here, at home. I don’t specifically mean infrastructure as in bricks and mortar, steel and concrete, but rather in relationship with one another. A starting point may be working on the next work of Christmas which Thurman lists: to bring peace among others.
How might we as a people learn to study war no more. How might we learn not to invite our neighbor to go to war with us? I am speaking about the person across the street who has different ideas and thoughts on politics. Perhaps listening for understanding, not necessarily agreeing, but looking for common ground is where we all need to start?
And finally: to make music in the heart. I believe if an effort is made toward these other works of Christmas, that the music will come through the joy we will realize walking with our resurrected Lord Jesus.
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 others,
To make music in the heart.
– Howard Thurman
+ Pastor Jim