We’re one week past Thanksgiving and just three weeks away from Christmas. I attended my first Christmas concert this weekend although odes to Saint Nick and sounds of Joy to the World have been ringing through store sound systems for what feels like months. (I don’t want to start WWIII but I refuse to play Christmas music until after Thanksgiving, even then I have a hard time truly getting in the spirit until approximately the week before.) Tis the season for tinsel and bows; red, green, and gold; Rudolph and Wise Men; Buddy the Elf and Red Rider BB Guns; shopping and baking; and at some point, Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus laying in the manger.
And I don’t know about you, but the holiday season simply seems to bring a level of busyness and stress unprecedented by any other time of the year. It’s the Christmas craze…and it tends to put us all in a holiday haze. And so after a bit of a hiatus, I hope to offer a little hope on how to navigate this time of year without completely losing it at the in-laws or becoming Ebenezer Scrooge.
Here’s tip number one: Breathe. Just breathe. Seriously, in through your nose, out through your mouth. Breathe.
Ok, tip number two: Be kind.
I know, earth shaking. But seriously, how much better would our world and the holidays be if we were simply kind to one another? Unfortunately I have seen way too much unkind behavior lately. Do I really need to remind anyone what the weeks following the election looked like in this country? I’ve never experienced or witnessed such cruelty and unkind behavior or attitudes from friends and family towards other friends and family in my life. Out of our own hurt, frustration, and fear we lash out at others, often those we love the most, which then leads to incredible guilt and remorse making the fake smile through the stress that much more difficult.
What would the Christmas season feel like if instead of fighting for the closest parking spot, we actually allowed someone else to have it? What if we chose the longest line in the grocery store or slowed down while moving through the aisles to actually look our fellow shoppers in the eye? What if buying a gift for someone we know wouldn’t expect it and would be extra blessed by it actually blessed us instead? What if we bought a weary shopper a coffee? What if we put our politics and passions and perilous opinions aside, just for a season, and embraced our common need for a Savior in a manger? Wasn’t it simple kindness that caused the Grinch’s heart to finally grow? Isn’t it ultimately kindness that leads to the Miracle on 34th Street?
Kindness. It is so simple of a concept it is often overlooked. Kindness is simple, but it’s implications are incredibly powerful. It can turn sour attitudes, melt cold hearts of stone, and restore hope. It can reconcile feuding families and bring peace where there was once prejudice. God’s kindness is what turns us from our sin (Romans 2:4) and our kindness demonstrates the Holy Spirit at work in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23). “Be kind” may sound cliche, but it is an integral part of God’s very character (Psalm 145:17) and a command from God to his chosen people (Colossians 3:12). Ephesians 1:7 says, “He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.”
Kindness sets people free. Free from stress. Free from fear. Free from bitterness and resentment. Free from loneliness. Free from hurt. Free from cynicism. So slow down (kindness rarely happens when we’re rushed). And be kind to someone this holiday season. Whether your holiday is magical enough to be in a Martha Stewart magazine or tends to give the Griswold’s a run for their money, we can all be kind in the midst of the crazy.
I’d love to hear your holiday stories of kindness – comment below. And stay tuned for part two of surviving the Christmas craze and holiday haze.