December 20, 2020 | The Mood of Christmas
With the exception of the Biblical scriptures, the writings are from Dr. Howard Thurman’s book, The Mood of Christmas.
Christmas is Waiting to Be Born
Where refugees seek deliverance that never comes, and the heart consumes itself, if it would live, Where little children age before their time, And life wears down the edges of the mind, Where the old man sits with mind grown cold, While bones and sinew, blood and cell, go slowly down to death, Where fear companions each day’s life, And Perfect Love seems long delayed. CHRISTMAS IS WAITING TO BE BORN: In you, in me, in all mankind.”
Isaiah 9: 2, 6-7
2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Luke 2: 2-14
2 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. 8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
The Singing of Angels
There must be always remaining in every man's life some
place for the singing of angels -- some place for that
which in itself is breathlessly beautiful and by an
inherent prerogative, throwing all the rest of life into
a new and creative relatedness -- something that gathers
up in itself all the freshets of experience from drab and
commonplace areas of living and glows in one bright
light of penetrating beauty and meaning -- then passes.
The commonplace is shot through with new glory -- old
burdens become lighter, deep and ancient wounds lose much
of their old, old hurting. A crown is placed over our
heads that for the rest of our lives we are trying to
grow tall enough to wear. Despite all the crassness of
life, despite all the hardness of life, despite all of the
harsh discords of life, life is saved
by the singing of angels.
There is a strange irony in the usual salutation, 'Merry Christmas,’ when most of the people on this planet are thrown back upon themselves for food which they do not possess, for resources that have long since been exhausted, and for vitality which has already run its course. Nevertheless, the inescapable fact remains that Christmas symbolizes hope even at a moment when hope seems utterly fantastic. The raw materials of the Christmas mood are a newborn baby, a family, friendly animals, and labor. An endless process of births is the perpetual answer of life to the fact of death. It says that life keeps coming on, keeps seeking to fulfill itself, keeps affirming the margin of hope in the presence of desolation, pestilence, and despair. It is not an accident that the birth rate seems always to increase during times of war, when the formal processes of man are engaged in the destruction of others. Welling up out of the depths of vast vitality, there is something at work that is more authentic than the formal discursive design of the human mind. As long as this is true ultimately, despair about the human race is groundless.
The Madonna and Child in Christianity is profoundly rooted in this background of universality. Specifically, it dramatizes the birth of a Jewish baby, under unique circumstances, calling attention to a destiny in which the whole human race is involved. For many to whom he is the Savior of mankind, no claim as to his origin is too great or too lofty. Here is the culmination of a vast expectancy and the fulfillment of a desperate need. Through the ages the message of him whose coming is celebrated at Christmastime says again and again through artists, through liturgy, through music, through the written and spoken word, through great devotion and heroic sacrifice, that the destiny of man on earth is a good and common destiny — that however dark the moment or the days may be, the redemptive impulse of God is ever present in human life. But there is something more. The Madonna and Child conception suggests that the growing edge of human life, the hope of every generation, is in the birth of the child. The stirring of the child in the womb is the perennial sign of man's attack on bigotry, blindness, prejudice, greed, hate, and all the host of diseases that make of man's life a nightmare and a holocaust. The Birth of the Child in China, Japan, the Philippines, Russia, India, America, and all over the world, is the breathless moment like the stillness of absolute motion, when something new, fresh, whole, may be ushered into the nations that will be the rallying point for the whole human race to move in solid phalanx into the city of God, into the Kingdom of Heaven on the earth.
Gifts on My Altar
I place these gifts on my altar this Christmas;
Gifts that are mine, as the years are mine:
The quiet hopes that flood the earnest cargo of my dreams:
The best of all good things for those I love,
A fresh new trust for all whose faith is dim.
The love of life, God’s precious gift in reach of all:
Seeing in each day the seeds of the morrow,
Finding in each struggle the strength of renewal,
Seeking in each person the face of my brother.
I place these gifts on my altar this Christmas;
Gifts that are mine, as the years are mine.
Christmas returns, as it always does, with its assurance that life is good. It is the time of lift to the spirit, When the mind feels its way into the commonplace, And senses the wonder of simple things: an evergreen tree, Familiar carols, merry laughter. It is the time of illumination, When candles burn, and old dreams Find their youth again. It is the time of pause, When forgotten joys come back to mind, and past dedications renew their claim. It is the time of harvest for the heart, When faith reaches out to mantle all high endeavor, And love whispers its magic word to everything that breathes. Christmas returns, as it always does, with its assurance that life is good.
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.