Think of this column as a soft cloth sack of December, Hanukkah, Yule, Christmas, Kwanzaa greetings and wishes from me.

There are three small gift bags inside that look like I got them from Jan at Honeysuckle Hollow. If you take a moment to unwrap each one and sit with it and turn it over in your mind and maybe carry it with you for another moment, if you find yourself present with the present, that may turn out to be the best gift of all.

In the first bag is The Work of Christmas by Howard Thurman (#615 in Singing the Living Tradition). It’s been with me a lot lately and I wanted you to have it: to hold it in your hand rather than just remembering parts of it from the end of last year’s Christmas Eve service.

“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 flock, 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 brothers [and sisters], to make music in the heart.”

As I hold these thoughts, the list not only becomes a simple summary of the complex and daunting larger issues we seem bombarded by every day, I notice how this work of us and the world is framed. “When the song of the angels is stilled” (not gone, just taking a breath), the work of Christmas is “to make music in the heart.”  Everything that Thurman says is connected to the song. And each of us is called to find our voice in the choir.

In the second gift bag is another quote by Howard Thurman. Rev. Dr. Robert Franklin shared it with 40 UU ministers gathered at The Mountain last week in his opening remarks to our two-day workshop, “The Moral Crisis in America and Opportunities for Renewal.” And now I share it with you.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.”

I hear the emphasis on “Come alive and go do it.”  And I hear it in conversation with the Work of Christmas. These two quotes and gift bags are in direct relationship — they fit together somehow if we are to make and hear and feel the music in our hearts.

And wrapped in colorful tissue in the third bag is a hand-written note of what I heard Rev. Jaqueline Rhett from Eno River UU Fellowship say in response to Dr. Franklin’s questions that he posed to us near the end of our time together: What other opportunities for moral leadership do we see, and what are we going to do in the next six months?

Rev. Rhett who is a newly ordained minister and an African American woman of color said simply this:

“We don’t spend enough time in the vision of what we want to create.” 

Imagine what freedom really looks like, imagine what beloved community looks and feels like, she said. Then each of us can do what we do to spend more time living the vision of what we want to create, and in so doing we will be creating it. “Come alive [to your part in the work of Christmas] and go do it.”

I am just beginning to find how these three little gifts come together, how they live together in their interrelatedness, but I know they do. And I’d like you to have them so that each of you and all of us can be thinking of them together, turning them over in the moments and music of our lives so they might come together in harmonies we have yet to appreciate.

Think about singing “Joy to the World,” and feeling like you are bringing it.

I hope you get to En-joy your gifts this Holiday Season.

Happy Holidays.

Rev. Jim McKinley, Minister