January is here, for better or worse. It always feels a bit like a lost month to me. It doesn’t feel new, or shiny or all the other things we are supposed to feel at the turning of a fresh year. It is a month of resolute attempts at self-discipline, which inevitably lead to failure. When I worked in restaurants, January was the worst month of the calendar year. Between the resolutions of strict diets and strict budgets, no one went out to eat. The whole restaurant staff was broke and bored. January really operated at a loss then.
Redeeming January is a pet project I have taken on the last few years. Part of the January let-down I find myself in is due to a kind of spiritual waywardness. What do we celebrate now? Christmas is over, Lent and Easter are far in the distance. I find myself wondering what is the spiritual focus of these cold dark days. Then I stumbled upon the poem “Now the Work of Christmas Begins” by Howard Thurman. Thurman was an African-American theologian, educator, and civil rights leader. His life was shaped by his devotion to faith and justice and he has this to say for the time after Christmas.
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.
Redeeming January is going to mean doing the real work of Christmas. On these long winter nights, when the wind blows and the ice builds, we can turn our hearts to the work of Christmas. We can hold close the miracle of the incarnation, the miracle that God became human. The miracle that God knew cold, and wind and ice. The miracle that God knew January. The miracle that propels us into the world with hearts strangely warmed.