With the last Sunday of Advent falling on Christmas Eve, Duke Chapel Dean Luke A. Powery uses poems by the theologian Howard Thurman to reflect on how Christmas influences the rest of the year.
Read more about Dean Powery: chapel.duke.edu/contact/staff#dean
Visit the Howard Thurman Collection at Boston University: http://archives.bu.edu/web/howard-thurman/howard-thurman-collection
POWERY: Because of the way the calendar lines up this year, the last Sunday in Advent is also Christmas Eve. That means this final Advent devotion is also a Christmas reflection. And when I think about wise, poetic, and timely words about Christmas, I think of the late theologian, pastor, preacher, and professor Howard Thurman and his well-known poem, “The Work of Christmas.” It is read here by the Reverend Joshua Lazard, the C. Eric Lincoln Minister for Student Engagement at Duke University Chapel.
LAZARD: “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 rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music from the heart.
POWERY: “The Work of Christmas” suggests that Christmas is more than one day, even more than twelve days. The work of Christmas is the work of Christ in the world everyday. This poem is a call to action, not sentimentality. A call to serve those whom Christ represents through his birth in lowly, humble circumstances. The birth of Christ into the world, which we celebrate at Christmas, is only the beginning. Hopefully, Christ is also born in our hearts, such that we might do the work of Christmas, that is the work of Christ, in the world, wherever we go.
Christmas is more than angels and stars and kings and princes and shepherds. It encompasses ordinary time, ordinary people, and our ordinary life. And with the extraordinary help of the Holy Spirit, Christmas should change our whole life, each day of the year, not just on December 25th, but every day, so that we might be change agents of God for the common good. This work of God during Christmas is for the lost, the broken, the hungry, the prisoner, and all nations. Everybody needs Christmas. In other words, everybody needs Christ. Everybody needs his message of healing, peace, and hope. It is a message not just for then, but for now, for today.
And according to Thurman, this message, this work, even includes music, and we always need more music in the world. So may the melodies of Christmas be the music of your heart, everyday. Just because the song of the angels is stilled, doesn’t mean that your Christmas song has to stop.
As I close today’s reflection in prayer, I’ll use Howard Thurman’s words to do so.
God, let me light candles this Christmas.
Candles of joy despite all the sadness, candles of hope where despair keeps watch, candles of courage where fear is ever present, candles of love to inspire all my living.
Candles that will burn all the year long.
In the name of the one whom we celebrate at Christmas, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, amen.
- Religion & Spirituality