Slouching Towards Christmas

“Slouching towards Christmas”–Wasn’t that what Joan Didion’s collection of essays, Slouching Towards Bethlehem was all about–preparation for that moment when the world really is new?  Actually, I can’t remember.  Though I loved the book, it’s been years since I read it.  The Joan Didion book I do remember is The Year of Magical Thinking.  That is a book that should be on every pastor’s bookshelf.  But I digress.

I slouch towards Christmas in fits and starts.  First the house–the native American creche we bought at the Jemez pueblo years ago, a round mirror on the dining room table on which we put glass trees and star shaped candle holders (I love the sparkle and its reflection for so many different reasons).  Bows on the wall sconces(both bows and sconces have moved with us through five different houses);  Santa on the mantle; last a ribbon wreath on our front gate.

We always get our Christmas tree on the Feast of Guadalupe.  I want it upimages for a good while; then I want it down on Epiphany.  (You can read the account of this year’s tree in my sermon “In the Bowl of a Question Mark” posted below.)  This year we moved the Black Angel who usually presides over the dining room from a perch high on an old high secretary desk to the top of the tree.  I think it’s fitting she reign over our tree as we remember Nelson Mandela, the great reconciler of our age and time.  (Besides, her presence on our tree helps to redeem my tree-shopping experience this year.)

The mood of ChristmasBut its Howard Thurman who guides me each year through Advent to Christmas and beyond.  I start my day with silence and his words rising from the well-thumbed pages of The Mood of Christmas and Other Celebrations.

Let me share some of those words with you now.  A teaser really–titles of poems, lines of verse.

“I Will Light Candles This Year”–Candles of joy,despite all sadness/Candles of hope where despair keeps watch/….Candles that will burn all the year long.

“Christmas is the Season of the Heart”–The time of forgiveness for injuries past/The Sacrament of sharing without balancing the deed/The moment of remembrance of graces forgotten/The poem of joy making light the spirit/The sense of renewal restoring the soul/The day of thanksgiving for the goodness of God/CHRISTMAS IS THE SEASON OF THE HEART

“Christmas Returns”–Christmas returns as it always does, with its assurance that life is good….

And this poem of Thurman’s that I sent out to the bi-lingual, bi-cultural congregation I serve:

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.

I hope that these words from Thurman help sustain us all in the drive towards Christmas–getting and wrapping last-minute gifts, finishing projects that must go under the tree, baking those cookies, sending those cards, writing those sermons, calling up friends.  I like to remember that at the base of it all is the gift of new life–a gift that calls us to the work of Christmas.

So I close this post with another poem of Thurman’s:

“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 brothers/To make music in the heart.

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3 Responses to Slouching Towards Christmas

  1. Elaine says:

    One can never go wrong with some Howard Thurman. Thanks!

  2. dimlamp says:

    You may be interested in Joni Mitchell’s rendition of Slouching towards Bethlehem:

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