Many Americans are in the full swing of the holiday season right now, a hoped-for time of light, peace, and goodwill. Many people are blessed to be returning to happy celebrations with family and friends full of gifts, shared meals, and joy. But for some it can be hard to celebrate in the midst of difficult circumstances. For others, it is a challenge to embrace the true meanings of the holidays many of us observe. And even in the middle of joyful celebrations, many people still see the suffering of others and hear the call to do all we can to love our neighbors, welcome the stranger, and make this a true season of caring and giving.
The beloved theologian Howard Thurman wrote a series of meditations expressing these same sentiments, which were eventually compiled in the book The Mood of Christmas and Other Celebrations. For Christians, this is the Advent season as we wait to celebrate the miracle of the incarnation, the belief that God actually came to live among us as a poor child. Would our world be ready to welcome that poor child today? In “Christmas Is Waiting to be Born,” Thurman calls us to ponder this question and help realize the answer during a contemporary Advent in today’s nation and world:
Where refugees seek deliverance that never comes
And the heart consumes itself, as if it would live,
Where 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.
That Christmas is still waiting to be born—and you and I must be the midwives. As Thurman writes in “I Will Light Candles This Christmas,” we must embrace the grace and hope of this season to give us strength for the coming year and assure a brighter future for every child.
I will light Candles this Christmas,
Candles of joy despite all the 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 year long.