And so, the tree has been taken down. The Advent candles burnt down to nubs. The Wise Men made it to the crèche, and now they are back in their box, awaiting their Christmas journey at the end of this coming year.
This is always a sort of strange, wobbly-legged feeling time of year, when we’re told to ‘Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord!” and share the joy and hope of Christmas with the world, without the help of precious manger scenes or heart-tugging carols to help us along the way.
Epiphany has come and gone, and while the liturgical calendar may still tell us we’re in Christmas Season, we have entered a time when the hope and expectation felt in Advent and Christmas Day is a memory that is feeling more distant by the minute.
But the whole point of Advent is the coming of Christ–and the idea that hope and good will are meant to be ever with us, having come to us so miraculously on Christmas Day.
Yet… it’s so hard. It’s so hard to look out the window on a gray January morning, with a commute to make, or sobering news to read and feel the thrill of “Joy to the world, the Lord has come!” In fact, finding a bit of joy in the day come sometimes feel absolutely impossible, or too hard for one little person to attempt.
During these times, I think about my very favorite Bible verse, which is John 1:5, “A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” For me, that is the first step in maintaining the spirit of Christmas, and indeed the spirit of our whole faith. One light, one person making a move towards peace, or hope, or good will, can make all the difference.
There is a quote I love from the now Saint Teresa of Calcutta: “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” It’s amazing for me to think of someone as dynamic and influential as Mother Teresa as just a tiny person casting a stone on a pond, yet that often how great things get done; one person decides to take action, to reach out or to speak, and then others follow suit. We often forget that we are not meant to ‘save the world’ all on our own. We are meant to act in community, and while we can’t do everything, we can each do something.
Think of all the parables that Jesus shared, and all the heroes you find in the Bible. Time after time, the people who make all the difference can sometimes feel like the worst one for the job, or that the obstacles they face are too huge to surmount.
A young shepherd with only a slingshot kills a giant and becomes King of Judah; a young Jewish woman must stand up to a King who has decreed the death of her people in order to protect them; an unclean, enemy Samaritan is the only one to bestow kindness and humanity to the badly abused man on the road; fisherman, women with sketchy reputations, and tax collectors become the champions of the message of Christ.
Against all odds, these imperfect, nervous, flawed people stand up for what they feel God has called them to do, and they succeed.
And so, we head forward into a new year, we must approach it with faith and hope. We cannot control everything–in fact, there is very little we can control in this very big and complicated world. But we can, as Mother Teresa said, make small contributions for the world’s greater good.
And how might we do this? For this answer, I look to our baptismal covenant, a beautiful map of how to bring goodness into this world.
I promise to continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers; to persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever I fall into sin, to repent and return to the Lord; to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ; to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving my neighbor as myself; to strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being.
And I will….with God’s help.
What words help you remember to let the light of Christ shine through you?
Janet Spence says
I love this Howard Thurman poem, ‘Now the work of Christmas Begins’ which seems to match your reflections on this time of year.
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 the flocks,
then the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal those broken in spirit,
to feed the hungry,
to release the oppressed,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among all peoples,
to make a little music with the heart
And to radiate the light of Christ,
every day, in every way, in all that we do
and in all that we say.
Then the work of Christmas begins.
Thank you for such a perfect message on a cold, gray Monday in January when it’s even hard to get moving, much less make a difference in the world. Our baptismal covenant, indeed, is a living, breathing guide on how to bring goodness into the world.