"He came for testimony, to testify to the light so that all might believe through him"(Jn. 1:18).
The great Black mystic theologian, Howard Thurman, penned a very insightful reflection titled, Season of Affirmation. Thurman shared this wisdom in this provocative prose: "Christmas is the season of affirmation. I affirm my faith in the little graces of life: the urgency of growth, the strength of laughter, the vitality of friendship." I noticed in this opening line that Christmas is the season of affirmation in Thurman's mind-eye. The sense that we should see this season as affirmation and not unwrapping gifts, running to and from the mall is counterculture to what we see in our society today.
Even more interesting in this concept of the Season of Affirmation is that each stanza starts with the personal pronoun identifying his actions during this season. Thurman said, "I affirm my confidence in the dignity of man: His fortitude and despair, his strength and weakness, his love and hatred. / I affirm my joy in the experience of living: The fragrance of nostalgia, the scattered moments of delight, the exhilaration of danger. / I affirm my need of my fellows: The offerings of faith, the gift of variety, the quality of difference. / I affirm my hunger for God: The desire for fulfillment, the ache for understanding, the sense of peace." Here, we see a man giving us a personal testimony of how he lived his virtuous lifestyle of confidence, joy, the need for others, and the hunger for God to sense peace this season.
Juxtaposing Thurman's wise words with John's gospel on this Christmas day, I see these golden affirmations testifying to the Light, Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. Remember, "A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light..." (Jn. 1:6-7) Although John the Baptist is not quoted often in the scriptures, he illustrated confidence when saying, "This was he of whom I said, 'The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me'" (Jn. 1:15). Furthermore, I imagine John was joyful in helping others and had peace when seeing the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. John testified to the light!
For this reason, when celebrating the birth of Jesus, the Savior of the world, use this season to affirm someone who needs words that give strength for their weakness. Or share your love with strangers or family members who may have heard hateful comments used to destroy one's dreams. Give someone joyful words, inspiring words like incense rising to God's throne, restoring hope in one's hopelessness. Plant seeds of faith, affirming that you "have the strength for everything through him who empowers us” (Phil. 4:13). The world needs this Season of Affirmation to know who the Prophet Isaiah called "Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace" (Is. 9:5).
Testify to others with affirmation, making this the best Christmas ever.
Blessings to all this Christmas season.
The Work of Christmas by Howard Thurman
Author: Evang./Prof. Michael P. Howard, MACS. Facilitator, University of Dayton, VLCFF, University of Notre Dame, McGrath Institute, STEP Online,
Lead Faculty and Course Designer "The Presence of Black Catholics in the Church Today and Tomorrow" Loyola Marymount University,
Founder of Eat the Scroll Ministry
"I ate it, and it was sweet as honey" (Ez. 3:1).