Howard Thurman’s Christmas

I’m struggling to find The Mood of Christmas that Howard Thurman (1899-1981), the prominent African American author, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader, wrote about in 1973.   

The election turmoil with its uncertain aftermath makes it difficult to focus on first things – family, hope, joy, music, giving.

I’ve quit watching TV news and only scan a few newspapers.

I need something more than Santa Claus music accompanying me while shopping for the right gifts for family members and friends.

And so I’ve returned to Howard Thurman’s The Mood of Christmas, written in another difficult time, including the poem now set to music —

I Will Light Candles this Christmas

I will light Candles this Christmas,
Candles of joy despite all the sadness,
Candles of hope where despair keeps watch,
Candles of courage for fears ever present,
Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days,
Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens,
Candles of love to inspire all my living,
Candles that will burn all year long.

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 others,

Who knows what the future will bring?   Whatever it is for me I’m more concerned for my children and grandchildren.   I hope they too will find the timeless truth in these lines.

1973, the year Thurman wrote The Mood of Christmas was a difficult time as well.   I remember those days getting caught up on a cold rainy day in the anti-war demonstrations at Nixon’s second inauguration with the Watergate scandal about to erupt.

It was the year that changed the course of my life as I joined an effort to address the poverty crisis in a Washington, DC neighborhood scarred by the burned-out remains from the 1968 riots.

I’m not sure when I discovered Howard Thurman.

It may have been when I learned that Martin Luther King, Jr., carried with him a copy of Thurman’s most recognized book – Jesus and the Disinherited.   Or maybe when I first listened to his remarkable meditation on Psalm 139 near the end of his interview with Landrum Bolling – now on YouTube.

In mid-life he became a mentor I never met.   A candle in life when “darkness seems to hide His face.”

 

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5 Responses to Howard Thurman’s Christmas

  1. Fantastic Tom! Well said and thanks for sharing.

  2. Randy Newcomb says:

    This is beautiful, Tom.

  3. Don Dunnington says:

    Thanks, Tom. I had just read an excerpt from Thurman’s “Mood of Christmas” before opening your post. The timing was good! I looked for the musical setting for the poem. I haven’t located it yet, but came across this song performed by “Avalon” with a similar message: “Light a Candle” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6K2ocj4BvUQ

    Your life and work since that time you mention in 1973 has certainly “lit a candle” for many of us! Thanks! Have a blessed Christmas!

  4. Franklin Cook says:

    These are inspiring words. Thanks for sharing them.

  5. Larry Dennis says:

    “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 others”… Christmas at its best!

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