When our three-year-old, Katherine, can get an adult's attention, she has all kinds of plans for them. I observe this almost every time someone walks into our home. She leads them up to her room to show them whatever is important to her at the moment or she guides them back to our familyroom to engage in some very involved pretend play. As I watched her with my friend on Tuesday, I noticed that she was micromanaging everything Kristen did. "You sit here." "Hold this thing this way." "No, like this." I have kind friends who always play along for a while or till Katherine is distracted. It is endearing.
As I observed Katherine on Tuesday, I was struck by how much I am like her in life. I have plans and programs for my life and expectations of how others will fit into that. "You sit here." "You behave this way, so I can be comfortable." "No, don't act like that; I can't deal with it." I often spend more time trying to control my surroundings and circumstances, rather than embracing and enjoying them.
Tomorrow is Christmas. For most of us that means spending time with family and friends. For some, maybe many, of us, that also means dreading what might happen, engaging in tense conversations, having to interact with "that" relative, or enduring questions we have no interest in answering! A holiday time that they say is supposed to be full of joy, peace, and harmony is anything but. What are we to do?
I am fond of telling my children that it does not matter how their sibling is treating them, they are responsible for their own behavior. We absolutely cannot control another person. We can try, of course, but that rarely gets us our desired results. Hanging out with our families at Christmas is no exception! This truth has me thinking about what Scripture has to say about how believers should act this Christmas, and every day. What does God want me to do? What does His Word say about how to interact with people, whether they be kind or difficult?
A few verses came to mind:
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, O LORD; teach me your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. Psalm 119:9-16
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. I Corinthians 13:4-8
The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. Galatians 5:6b
If you find yourself feeling nervous about family time tomorrow, remember the Lord is near and He has shown you how to love Him and love others. Do not let your worry and imagination get the best of you ahead of time, creating scenarios. Each time a fear arises, tell it, God goes with me and He will help me with what actually happens. I do not need to make up a future I cannot predict. Meditating on the Word can also help you to stay steady, like the Psalmist says above. Have some verses ready to call to mind when you feel tension mounting inside you. And as you walk through your day, call to mind how love expresses itself: kindness, patience, not envying, not boasting, looking to the interests of others, and so on and so forth. You can never go wrong with love! The tough part is that loving usually means dying to self and promoting another, even if they are annoying, rude, or even hateful. Christ is in you; He will help you choose love!
What a better way to do Christmas, than to love others the way that Christ has loved us!
Remember how He loved us? While we were still sinners.
My hope, of course, is that you're looking forward to your Christmas celebrations! But a lot of Christmas movies indicate that these family gatherings often involve a lot of ... squirming, to say the least. Don't worry, meditate on the Word of God, and choose God-style love. May God bless you as you walk in His way on this most incredible of holidays, when we celebrate how the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
PS For my family that is reading this. I am really looking forward to hanging out with all of you. Don't worry! I simply wanted to explore how we Christian folks can use God's Word to guide us in trying circumstances at Christmas. Love you all!