On three Monday nights in November, a bunch of us gathered online for a course called “Saints of Our Time.” The word saints conjures up halos in artwork and names like Saint Augustine or Saint Teresa, heroic people who achieved great things in the name of serving God and community. We looked at Fred Craddock the first week, the great Disciples preacher and scholar. Anne Lamott was the focus of the second week, a former hippie turned Christian writer whose many books inspire thousands.

The last saint was Howard Thurman, probably the least known of the three, and yet arguably the most influential. Thurman was an African American scholar who influenced Martin Luther King Jr and the nonviolent movement known as Civil Rights. Supposedly, MLK always carried a Bible with him, along with a copy of Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited. In preparation for the class, I was reading through another of his books, a collection of devotionals called Meditations of the Heart. Near the end, I came across this poem titled “Candles for Christmas.” You may come across it elsewhere this season, but I wanted to share it here in hopes of inspiring you.

“Candles for Christmas” by Howard Thurman

I will light candles this Christmas

Candles of joy despite all sadness,
Candles of hope where despair keeps watch,
Candles of courage for fears ever present,
Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days,
Candles of graces to ease heavy burdens,
Candles of love to inspire all my living,

Candles that will burn all the year long.