Each year at this time I find myself returning to the words of Howard Thurman. I thumb through my now dog-eared copy of
The Mood of Christmas hoping for inspiration. This year, remembering the children of Newtown and all children who have lost their lives to violence, I linger over Thurman’s poem,
“I Will Light Candles This Christmas”
Candles of joy, despite all sadness,
Candles of hope where despair keeps watch
Candles of courage for fears ever present,
Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days,
Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens,
Candles of love to inspire all my living,
Candles that will burn all the year long.
I hear the words of a Christmas carol, “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” and remember Christmas nights in Minnesota
–the sharp cold, the clear sky, the snow sparkling on the ground–and I feel peace. A peace that speaks Christmas to me in language that needs no words. The light and shadows, the barren trees, the tingling feel of cold upon my face all take me back to the deep peace of Christmas past–three generations and two lineages gathered around the Christmas tree, my grandfather putting logs on the fire and my mother hissing to my father, “Jack, move the wood fast before he burns up all our driftwood.”
But we live in the present. Christmas has yet to come. Here, in Albuquerque, Christmas arrives shortly before sunset as neighbors gather to light the luminaria which will light the way for Christ to come into our homes and into our lives. You hear it happening before you see it–click after click, neighbors greeting one another and wishing one another Merry Christmas, and then the collective silence as the sun sets and the luminaria glow in the dark night. Christmas comes yet again.
We celebrate Christmas in the morning. No time for breakfast these days. Christmas first comes to the shelter where with friends and family, we’ll sing and pray and give thanks–a joyful service complete with bishop in his mitre and cope. My husband heads for home. I rush off to another service–a contemplative Christmas service where I begin to feel Christmas settling into my life as we sing together