Every year the holidays catch me by surprise. Although I paid attention at calendar time in kindergarten, like everyone else, I still manage to be unprepared for the holiday season, normally considered to start at Thanksgiving and ends on New Years Day.
The response is that I am actively resistant to activities designed to 'get me in the spirit.' Christmas music, shopping, decorating, parties all cause me stress that I don't have the rest of the year. Fear of failure, and it's bosom buddy, procrastination, combine to make me dread the holidays far more than anyone should.
So this year, my plan is to think much more about Jesus, and much less about chores, tasks, obligations and expectations. I won't be rude or selfish, but I want the guy whose birthday we celebrate to be front and center. So how might we honor Jesus leading up to his birthday?
There are a lot of things we can do. We can say 'Merry Christmas' to everyone. The truth is, today we can offend people no matter what we do. I have gotten out of the practice of saying 'Merry Christmas' although I have no clear idea as to why. The sentiment is positive, uplifting and kind. There can be no hidden agenda in saying Merry Christmas. If you get a hostile response to this, don't get mad or embarrassed. Realize that 'hurt people sometimes hurt people' and that someone who gets offended by 'Merry Christmas' may be fighting a bigger fight than you can easily see. Give them a break.
This brings us to the second thing we can do: give grace and forgiveness. These cost us nothing. Some will say that forgiving someone for a hurt, slight or embarrassment costs you your pride or somehow makes one weak. That is not only okay, it's preferred, as God's power is made perfect in our weakness (2Cor 12:9). Pride causes more problems than anyone can count. It makes spats, tiffs and arguments into feuds, fractures and wars. It causes people to behave horribly while driving. Or walking. Or watching sports. Or even going to church.
On the job, pride disguises itself as toughness or political savvy. What it comes down to is that when you let your pride take over, you will defend it at all costs. Including attacking someone else, whose motives may be innocent. But even if they aren't innocent, crushing them under your heel is not honoring Jesus. Quite the opposite. Don't do it, even if you can.
The third thing I want to mention is gratitude. If you are reading this, its likely you are among the small minority of people on earth, who have a safe place to stay, plenty of food to eat, some money and a lifestyle that many in other parts of the world would love. Often, we focus too much on what we don't have - 'enough' money, 'enough' prestige, 'enough' attention, fame or things.
This year, let us focus on what we do have with gratitude. We are a blessed people. That doesn't mean we don't have problems. Many struggle with daunting problems every day, and we pray for them. And we all struggle with something.
This leads to the last thing, the thing that Jesus loves - we need to love one another. People get snagged on the concept of 'love.' Romantic love, superficial love, love of money, etc, are all real, but not what Jesus was talking about. There were 2 great commandments in His word: Love God with all your heart and soul and mind and love one another as oneself. The great thing is that you can love others and, in so doing, love God. Multitasking!
But how do we love others? Kindness, respect, attention, awareness, grace, forgiveness. We don't even need to know someone in order to show them love. Little kindnesses - helping someone with their bags at the store; encouraging someone who is struggling; holding doors for people; being courteous in traffic. Things like this require no effort and no cost and often, not even any time - just paying attention and knowing when you can help.
So as I finish this post on 12/3/2016, if I can do these 4 commitments, I think I will be ready for the holidays and the whole rest of the year. You might try them too.
I'll say Merry Christmas, to honor the Lord and share a kindness with another person.
I'll show grace and forgiveness to others, whether they 'deserve it' or not. I will remember, that God has forgiven me!
I'll live with gratitude. Everything is a gift from God, without whom we would have and be nothing. I'll be satisfied and thankful to Him for all he has given me.
I'll love God by loving others. So many easy ways to do this, and you get to feel great as a reward. (as if you need more!)
I feel more in the Christmas spirit already. Nice!