by Christopher McRae, Discipleship Team Leader
For many people, this is the best time of the year. It’s the Hap- Happiest Season of all! It’s the feelings of the mid-winter days, engendered by nostalgia. Christmas is a good time; “a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely,” to quote Dickens. People tend toward niceness. Christmas is a time to cherish “peace on earth” and “goodwill towards all.” We smile and sing to ourselves and anticipate the excitement of Christmas morning. It’s a time when children delight in child-like wonder at innocent enchantments and old men derive pleasure from remembrances of youthful joys. Distant pilgrims are transported to the home fire’s hearth in their hearts. Christmas is indeed something to sing about.
There is a song that isn’t really a Christmas tune per se. It’s from the Broadway musical The Sound of Music. Maria sings about the things she chooses to fill her mind with when times are bad. My Favorite Things has become a seasonal staple for this time of year. The lyrics are filled with holiday and wintertime imagery. The “bright copper kettle” evokes images of a warming cider simmering on the stove. “Warm woolen mittens” keep the cold from nipping at our fingertips, and “silver white winters”, “sleigh bells”, and “snowflakes”, add to the imagery. But it’s really the Christmas morning magic of “brown paper packages tied-up with strings” under the lighted tree that completes the picture. The squeals of child-like joy and simple delight in dignified smiles of gratitude make the gift-giving ritual such an integral part of the season.
And who doesn’t love these kinds of things? (Including “whiskers on kittens.”) This song has captured the holidays spirit. More than “raindrops on roses”, “crisp apple strudels … and schnitzel with noodles” some of my favorite things are these heart attitudes.
7. Trust — From the beginning of God’s activity through creation, the commodity of exchange in his kingdom has been by faith. The currency of faith that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob displayed connected them to God by belief that he exists and that he gives good to those who are his. It is by faith that God is pleased. In the physical world, which we inhabit, God calls us to put our trust in what we can’t see, touch and taste. We can’t science our way to the supernatural. Neither can we buy our way into spiritual connections. Money and materialism have no currency in the kingdom of Light. The medium of exchange in the heavenly realm is trust.
As we deal with the Divine, this faith is essential. And we need to use this in our interactions with one other as well. During this Christmas season as we put our confidence in a baby born some two thousand years ago, we desperately need to trust each other as well. The heart attitude of choosing to believe the best about each other rather than assuming the worst will make these days brighter.
8. Mercy — Being kind to one another, pays dividends. I want to live in a world that operates on the terms of a generosity of spirit. But because people sin, because we make mistakes and mess up, because we center on ourselves, we end up hurting others. Everyone does this. So, everyone needs forgiveness from those around us. I need the gracious mercy of my friends and my family. At times, I need the mercy of strangers.
Just as I am guilty and need others to overlook my faults, I need to be one who shows mercy to others. Of course, there are sins that need to be forgiven. But sometimes, it’s not necessarily moral failure as such. Rudeness, thoughtlessness, and agenda-itis, can get the best of us. When out shopping, driving in the mayhem of city traffic, fighting for a parking spot, experiencing poor customer service (whether at the post office or in a restaurant) these are opportunities to show this most Christ-like of characteristics. Overlooking a fault has become a lost art in our culture of grievance amid demands for our rights to ease and comfort. Let’s take a moment during these days to extend mercy to one another.
9. Humility — We have our own plans and agendas for this season. Things to do so that we can do things special for others. We end up getting very self-focused and self-obsessed with our desire to make Christmas time the most wonderful time of the year. We bemoan the busyness of the season. The self-inflicted pandemonium of approaching deadlines produce a laser like focus on accomplishing our goals, getting our ways, and pushing through to making this the “best Christmas ever.”
Additionally, if we’re ever of a mind to admit it, we sometimes do more so that others can see how much more we’re doing — and give us a little credit for the doing. Being known as selfless is one of the most selfish things we can go all-out for. Let’s strive for a little less doing and a little more reticence in self-promotion. We can set aside our need for being needed to understand that before the manger, we are not the Wise Men nor the Drummer Boy bringing gifts. We are poor, deaf, and blind beggars who are desperate for what that baby embodies. The Giver who is the Gift.
Let’s remember the favorite things of our God and King whose Advent we celebrate. Let’s remember and put into practice the disciplines he has generously bestowed.
“On the ninth day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me
Nine humble moments
Eight merciful deeds
Seven trusting thoughts
Six dollops of deference
F i v e l o a d s of g r a c e
Four heaps of kindness,
Three bits of balance,
Two generous acts,
and a pack of patience in a time of need.”