We labor’d in uncertainty, clear into bleak December,
Why are we doing what we do? We tried hard to remember.
It all became perfunctory, enthusiasm fled;
When out the window we would gaze, the world, we saw, was dead.
Then all unbidden, down the hall, a great commotion rose,
We peered, disgruntled, out to see a chap in bright red clothes;
With beard of white and twinkling eye this apparition came
Into our very office, and he roared “What is my name?”
“But no,” we cried, “It cannot be; we don’t believe in you.”
“Then tell me why,” he sagely said, “you’re doing what you do?”
As one, replied, “How can we say? We’re only bureaucrats,
To carry out the orders of the ones who wear the hats.”
In silence deep he pointed to our little Christmas tree:
“When you set up this symbol here, did you not think of me?
And did the meaning of the tree not come into your head?
Now tell me truly, bureaucrats, is Christmas’ meaning dead?”
Embarrassed all, we hung our heads, and shuffled all our feet,
We couldn’t get the courage up his knowing eye to meet;
“Now listen carefully,” he said, “to what you’ve all forgot;
In putting up this Christmas tree you’ve told yourselves a lot.
“It isn’t just this time of year to which your labors lend,
It’s all year long in which you try to aid your fellow Men.
What greater calling could you have than that to which you’ve bent
Your hands and minds in helping others? That’s why you were sent.
“Every child of God,” said he, is a resource for us all,
And you are God’s resources too, who labor in this hall.
Don’t ever lose sight of your goal; your purpose is divine,
And yours is needed all year long, not once a year like mine.”
Then gaily skipped he all around, and touched us every one,
And grinning gave us all a gift; he sure was having fun.
Then turned he round and touched his nose, and poised himself to leave;
“Now don’t forget,” he smiling said, “there’s more than Christmas eve,”
Then right before our very eyes he bounded down the hall
And at the corner disappeared, without a trace at all.
We faintly heard the sound of bells and “Ho Ho!” overhead;
Astonished, still not speaking, we considered what he’d said.
Timidly, then boldly all, we raised our eyes and smiled.
I think we felt the type of joy we’d each known as a child.
As one, we shook hands all around, a tear or two was shed,
We did not feel like bureaucrats, that former gloom was dead.
How fortunate we are, indeed, to work here where we can
Throughout the year apply ourselves to help our fellow Man.
We are not Scrooge-like bureaucrats, forgetting why we’re here;
Just like that jolly chap in red, our goal is very clear.
Merry Christmas from the Phantom Poet
December 20, 1985