Thursday, November 22, 2012

5 Steps to a More Tranquil Heart this Christmas

December flies past us like so many snowflakes on a gust of wind. The cookies, the carols, the tree, the parties. Even as Christians, we can get caught in this eddy, bogged down in the unessential, and lose sight of what Christmas is all about. . .

The Gifts.

No really. (Okay, One Gift in particular.)

To help us cultivate the appropriate Spirit (love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness. . .Galatians 5:22-23), here's a quick exercise in preparing for Christmas.

  1. Think about all the people who are probably going to give gifts, send cards, and generally remember you this season.
  2. Think about all the ways in which you have failed every single one. Possible failures include but are not limited to:
    • Talking when you should have listened.
    • Listening when you should have talked.
    • Cherishing snide thoughts, whether expressed or not, no matter how witty or amusing they may have seemed at the time.
    • In other words, gossiping.
    • Knowing that your solution to a problem is the best one.
    • Always.
    • Resenting silly things.
    • Resenting anything.
    • Not helping to carry a burden when you could have.
    • Adding to a burden when you needn't have--whether intentionally or out of sheer thoughtlessness.
    • Lacking patience.
    • Lacking time.
    • Taking the easy way out.
  3. Mull over these things until you are entirely convicted about the love lacking in your conduct and realize that for anybody to wish you a merry Christmas--to say nothing of giving you a gift!--is a small miracle. . . .
  4. Realize that you couldn't have been perfect even if you tried harder. . . .Realize that these small miracles point to the Big Miracle. "Love divine, all loves excelling..."
  5. Think about the holly, the traditions, the trimmings on the tree, and know that they are just that: Trimmings. And if they, in any way, obscure the central truth of a baby, the embodiment of love born into a manger, born to die. . .If any of these mere trimmings obscure our sense of the miracle, they need to be thrown out.

John 3:16 is often assigned to Ressurection Sunday, but it's a Christmas verse, too. (Not to mention, everyday.)

The Christmas season--as with any season--is best taken with humility and gratitude.

The gifts, rather than given out of obligation, should be joyously given out of love and thanksgiving. "I'm glad I know you."

They don't need to have a certain price tag. They don't need fancy wrappings. Think of the most touching gift you have ever received. . .Was it the value or size that meant so much to you?--or was it simply how heartfelt it was? Was it even necessarily something material?

Don't stress this season; don't buy into the rat race; don't try to fit it all in; don't compare your decorations and traditions to Martha Stewart's.
"Lord, do Thou turn me all into love, and all my love into obedience, and let my obedience be without interruption." - Jeremy Taylor
Sometimes the best Christmas carol is Silence.

Sometimes the best gift and decoration is an overflowing heart on your sleeve.

"Be still and know that I am God."


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