One Day After, The Work of Christmas Begins

“When the song of 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”

Today, the day after Christmas, you may heave a great sigh of relief that all the work is over. The cards have been sent, the tree put up and decorated, the presents wrapped and opened, the holiday meal cooked and eaten, the relatives greeted and returned home. But that’s not the real work of Christmas.

empty Christmas manger, the work of Christmas, Howard Thurman, Dan ForrestThose are just the trimmings.

On Christmas Eve, our choir at the First Parish of Sudbury, Unitarian Universalist, sang a song called “The Work of Christmas,” that really brought home to me what we all need to think about regardless of what holiday we celebrate.

The beautiful poem by Howard Thurman, set to a lovely tune by Dan Forrest, reminds us what Christmas is supposed to be about. You can hear it sung a capella here.

Thinking About the Real Work of Christmas

I loved singing “The Work of Christmas,” both in rehearsal and at the Christmas Eve service. It made me think every time.

“To find the lost, to heal the broken
To feed the hungry, free the prisoners
To rebuild nations, to bring peace among brothers
To make music in the heart” 

Today is December 26 and we have 364 more to take this poem to heart. Given the state of our country and our world, we have our work cut out for us.

Ways to Do More

We can accomplish some of this work by taking action when something needs changing, speaking up when we see mistreatment or cruelty, giving of time, money, or wisdom as best we can. But that’s not all.

work of Christmas, hands with flower, We can do more by just being kind, helpful, considerate, and generous. Think of what you would like someone to do for you. Think about how you feel when someone does something nice for you. Then do it for someone else.

We all need kindness and, researchers have found that it’s good for us. There are documented health benefits to practicing kindness. It gives us energy, helps us to live longer, and makes us happier.

How to Make a Difference

We don’t have to be rich to make a difference. I would love to write big checks to the charities that I support. It would feel great to have a building named for me at a museum, college or hospital. I would endow a foundation to solve important problems if I could.

We are not rich, however, and the world’s needs seem endless. We do what we can.

The opportunities to be kind pop up all around us. In stores, walking down the street, riding on the subway, in parking lots and garages, at dinner in restaurants. We just have to look outside of our own concerns, think beyond our worries, and put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, if only for a moment.

  • Health benefits of kindnessShovel your neighbor’s walk (especially if he or she is elderly)
  • Let someone else take that parking space.
  • Allow the person behind you in line to go first when they have just a few things—or they’re wrangling cranky kids.
  • Give your server at the restaurant a good tip.
  • Pay for the next guy’s coffee.
  • Hug someone who is troubled or unhappy.
  • Help an old man or woman over the snowbank the plow left.
  • Ignore the toddler having a meltdown on the plane.
  • Buy something extra and give it to the local food pantry.
  • Bake a pie or cake and give pieces to your neighbors.
  • Be patient and understanding when things are going wrong around you.

The Coupon Chain

I was shopping at the supermarket for Christmas dinner when the man in front of me at the checkout handed me the coupons that came with his receipt. “I don’t do coupons,” he said. I looked them over but they covered food I don’t use. So, I passed them along to the next person in line. The coupon chain may have kept going for a while until someone needed those coupons.

Try to keep this thoughtfulness going all year and not let it lapse with your New Year’s resolutions. Just keep this thought in mind:

“When the song of 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”

Be Kind

Pass it on. Share this post with your friends and colleagues. Maybe, like those coupons, it will start a chain. And be kind. Always.

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