by Rosemarie Pace
Pax Christi New York

Ed. Note: At key moments throughout the liturgical year, long-time regional coordinator Rosemarie Pace will offer reflections timed the season with accompanying prayers and suggested actions. This is the fourth in the series.

Ever since I first saw it on a Christmas card, “The Work of Christmas” by Howard Thurman has been a favorite of mine. Of course, seeing it on a Christmas card led me to associate it exclusively with Christmas, but this year, when I heard it again, I thought, “No! This poem is perfect for post-Christmas Ordinary Time.” Read it and see if you don’t agree:

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 people
To make music in the heart.

Yes, this is what is meant to happen when Christmas is passed, when we move from the Christmas season to Ordinary Time. It is how we keep the Christmas spirit alive as we transition from all the celebrating back to a more mundane routine.

But is it routine? That’s a pretty tall order; yet, it is what our faith calls us to, what our Savior came to model for us. If we’re realistic, we can’t do it all, especially not alone, but we can do some, and together we can do a lot. So, this Ordinary Time, let’s welcome the “work of Christmas,” doing what we can as best we can.

A Prayer by Dorothee Soelle

“It’s not you who should solve my problems, God,
but I yours, God of the asylum-seekers.
It’s not you who should feed the hungry,
but I who should protect your children
from the terror of the banks and armies.
It’s not you who should make room for the refugees,
but I who should receive you,
hardly hidden God of the desolate.
You dreamed me, God,
Practicing walking upright
and learning to kneel down,
more beautiful than I am now,
happier than I dare to be,
freer than our country allows.
Don’t stop dreaming me, God.
I don’t want to stop remembering
that I am your tree,
planted by the streams
of living water.”

Suggested Actions

Review “The Work of Christmas” and pick out just one thing you can do, for example:

  • Perhaps you can offer words of wisdom to a young person who is floundering as he or she tries to decide how to deal with a personal problem, or
  • You may be able to provide words of comfort to someone who seems to be caught in a trap of one bad thing happening after another, or
  • You might volunteer at a food pantry or make a donation, or
  • You could advocate for clemency for someone being held in prison more due to poverty, race, or immigration status than an actual crime, or
  • You could do your part to restore the environment with greater care, collaboration, and political persuasion, or
  • You could develop skills in conflict resolution or mediation and use them to help heal some of the divisions that are tearing this country apart, or
  • You, especially if you’re gifted in creative arts, you could bring a little joy to folks in a hospital or nursing home, senior residence, or child-care facility.

With these ideas as starters, you can probably think of many more. Brainstorm with others, and choose what best fits your talents, interests, and enthusiasm.

And always remember to pray, keep learning, and take time to take breaks to re-energize for the long haul.

Join Pax Christi for more inspiration and co-workers on the journey. Don’t forget to help us celebrate 50 years of Pax Christi USA in August in the DC area. See https://paxchristiusa.org/2021/10/14/save-the-date-pax-christi-usa-celebrates-50-years-at-the-national-conference/ for all the details.

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