Monday, January 13, 2020

The Work of Christmas: A Poem and Prayer for Coaches et al

As we approached the tee box on the 17th hole, my two friends—lapsed Catholics— turned to me to air their Christmas grievances (Festivus redux). 

One said, "Christmas Mass was nearly an hour and a half! That's way too long!" I shook my head in agreement; I agree! That is long. After all, I do love a short mass. The other added, "It's one few times they are getting that many people inside the Church. They can't let it go on that long." Though I'm not interested in serving as a spokesperson for the Catholic Church, it's not uncommon that others look to me to fulfill that role. I'm happy to let anyone but me serve as the resident apologist, especially on the golf course. However, in this moment—I turned to my friend who is Jewish and said "I'm going to let you respond to this." She said, "How's that?" I said, well, I know services for high holy days last much longer. Maybe you can speak to that..." Everyone laughed.
There's so much build up and anticipation for Christmas and what is now a season that extends from the day after Halloween until December 25, it's easy to forget for Christians everywhere, this is one of the two high holy days of the year. In other words, Christmas—the Nativity of the Lord— is IT! We should give our time, our hearts, our voices and our prayers in thanksgiving to God for His gift: The Word Made Flesh, The Incarnation, Emmanuel. I think worshipping as a community of faith for over an hour is perfectly justifiable. 

Putting Christmas in the context of a "high, holy day" has invited me to reflect further on its significance.It has prompted me to ponder how we are do we change....and what Christmas demands of us. Because of Christmas....fill in the blank here.

I found one answer in the poem "Now the Work of Christmas begins
” composed by Howard Thurman, an African-American theologian, educator, and civil rights leader. It's beautiful.

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 flocks,
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 the people, to make music in the heart.

I have used Thurman's poem as a prayer. I want to remember that Christmas asks something of me. And, when I consider all the gifts God has given me—especially in Christ Jesus—how can I not go out and give myself?
I shared this poem with a group of coaches last week. I highlighted the words that I think speak to what we are trying to do with the young men and women entrusted to our care.  So let us remember and let us pray.

Now the work of Christmas begins:

to find the lost—so many young people desire to be found. Our teams can be a home for them. Give us the grace and the desire to build a team that is inclusive, accepting and loving.

to heal the broken—whether injured in body or in mind, student athletes can find wholeness with a team. Lord, please we pray for your healing.

to feed the hungry—hungry for acceptance, love, attention and recognition, the athletes on our team come to us to be nourished. Good and gracious God, help us to nourish one another.

to bring peace among the people—sport has power, let us pray for the ability to build bridges and paths to peace.

to make music in the heart—love this image. It speaks to our passion...why we do what we do. Sports can be hard work. Practice is demanding and exacting. Games are pressure packed. Let us always remember the importance of play in the season.

The Christmas season officially ended Sunday, January 12 with the Baptism of the Lord. Let the work of Christmas officially begin.

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