Everyday Theology: The real work of Christmas begins now

"The work of Christmas asks us to honour the dignity of every person and invites us to walk with others in their hour of need."

The company has gone. The tree flops sadly at the curbside. The decorations are stowed away for another year. As we resume our normal activities, the feel-good generosity and goodwill of Christmas fade. With the Salvation Army Christmas kettles out of sight, the needs of others are out of mind.

Howard Thurman, an African American whose thought and spirituality influenced Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement, challenged the tendency to forget about others once the Christmas season comes to an end. “When the song of the angels is stilled/ When the star in the sky is gone/When kings and princes are home/When the shepherds are back with their flocks/The work of Christmas begins.”

In his poem, Thurman goes onto paraphrase a section of chapter twenty-five from the Gospel of Matthew that informs part of the social doctrine of Christianity. Here Jesus of Nazareth outlines some of the behaviors that he expects from his disciples. These include feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, visiting the imprisoned and caring for the sick. Furthermore, the disciple should undertake these actions with an attitude of humility and joy.

While the tasks that we associate with Christmas – shopping, baking, decorating, and socializing – can be tiring, it is more difficult to live the social teaching implicit in Christmas throughout the rest of the year. The work of Christmas asks us to honour the dignity of every person and invites us to walk with others in their hour of need.

Years ago, I had a lesson in what it means to live Christmas beyond the month of December. A gentleman with whom I sat on a board made a comment when asked about his day. He said his day was wonderful; he had had a number of unexpected opportunities to help others. At that time, I was a young mother busy with the demands of three small children; unexpected opportunities to help others were, in my mind, unwelcome interruptions in my schedule. His self-giving attitude amazed me, and his comment challenged me to look at my own selfishness.

The work of Christmas does not require us to engage in grand gestures to save the world, although some, like King, will have a huge impact on society. For most of us, our actions are more likely to be ordinary than heroic. If we can “do ordinary things with extraordinary love” (to quote Mother Theresa), our simplest action becomes grand.

In some ways, the work of Christmas stands in opposition to our annual custom of formulating New Year’s resolutions, which typically focus on improving the self or one’s situation. Year after year, our most common resolutions – to lose weight, to spend less and save more, to quit smoking, to get organized and to spend more time with family – have little to do with incarnating the spirit of Christmas.

Christmas, as one of my neighbours put it, should kick start our giving, not restrict it to a few weeks of the year. Although we feel good when we drop some coins into the Salvation Army kettle, the season of giving reminds us of the manner in which we are to live from January to December.

Trail BC resident Louise McEwan is a freelance writer with degrees in English and Theology. Her blog is www.faithcolouredglasses.blogspot.com. Contact her at mcewan.lou@gmail.com

Just Posted

Quilting with a cause

Tuesday Morning Quilters gather in a downtown Trail church each week; all proceeds go to charity

Trail mulls increase to police force

Trail RCMP Mike Wicentowich has submitted several proposals for city council to consider

Thieves target Genelle commercial properties

Police believe thefts may be connected

Trail welcomes curlers and spectators to B.C. championships

Games going on all week; the B.C. curling champions will be crowned on Sunday

Trail Youth Baseball swings into new season

A couple of change-ups coming to Trail Youth Baseball this year

‘Riya was a dreamer’: Mother of slain 11-year-old Ontario girl heartbroken

Her father, Roopesh Rajkumar, 41, was arrested some 130 kilometres away

Police seize bottles of grapefruit vodka from wanted man’s snow-pants

The men were pushing two shopping carts with a woman inside

Tonight’s sporting event costs more than the Super Bowl, and Obama is going

Tickets are going for more than $4,000 to watch the Duke - North Carolina basketball game

CRTC: Telecom industry using unacceptable sales tactics

Regulator held inquiry on sales practices of 12 Canadian providers of wireless and internet services

CRTC report finds ‘misleading, aggressive’ sales tactics used by telecom industry

Report recommends measures to make a fairer situation for consumers

Trudeau takes personal hit amid SNC-Lavalin controversy: poll

Overall, 41 per cent of respondents believed the prime minister had done something wrong in the affair

B.C. photographer captures otters on ice

A Langley photographer was at the right place at the right time on the Fraser River

Do you live with your partner? More and more Canadians don’t

Statistics Canada shows fewer couples live together than did a decade ago

B.C. child killer denied mandatory outings from psychiatric hospital

The B.C. Review Board decision kept things status quo for Allan Schoenborn

Most Read