It’s almost Christmas. Do you have your shopping done?
Many find this season stressful, and not least because of the high expectations set by those around us. Advertisements assault us from every direction: TV, radio, social media, flyers and catalogs in the mail. Children submit wishlists and spouses slip hints into conversation. The pressure is on to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list.
The Best Gift
Let’s be honest: life is often messy, and Christmas is one of the messiest times. There’s no way I’m going to solve your Christmas problems in today’s blog post. But whatever you’re facing this year, whether it’s blended or divided families, whether it’s loneliness or overwhelm, there really is one gift that makes everything better.
Wait, wait, WAIT — don’t tune out. This isn’t a Hallmark commercial, and love isn’t just a warm, fuzzy feeling. Here between Sundays I am committed to giving you only the most practical and useful of tips for living real life in the trenches until Jesus comes back or we make it home to see Him face to face.
When I say “love” will make things better, give me time to show you that love is a powerful force, and one that truly makes a difference.
The Power of Love
Are you out of patience? “Love is patient and kind.”
What about envious of others who appear to have endless resources to celebrate Christmas with gifts and toys and new things? Does it hurt your pride when everyone wants to spend Christmas at your brother’s house instead of yours? “Love is not jealous or boastful, proud or rude.”
We often read 1 Corinthians 13 (the “love chapter”) as if love is something to aspire to, something that we should “work on” and “improve ourselves” so that we can be like that, too. I’m not saying you can’t look at it that way. But what if we look at it this way:
When Love is in us, it gives us the ability to do what Love does.
Love is what empowers us, allows us to achieve the desired virtues of patience, kindness, humility, courtesy. Love is the fuel. Love is what transforms our perspective and powers our engines.
When you’re frustrated with someone, don’t say, “I should be more patient. God is love, and I should be loving, so I need to be more patient to be like God.”
Try this instead: “God is love. God lives inside me, and provides an endless supply of his love. What if I look at this person the way God does? God loves this person. God was there when they were born, watched them grow and saw every moment of pain and shame and sadness they’ve ever experienced. I don’t like the way they’re acting right now, but when I think about how God knows everything about them and still loves them enough to suffer and die for them, I see that I can be a messenger of God’s love by being patient even when they’re rude.”
Instead of seeing love as something to strive for, see it as a gift already given that we need to exercise. Love lives in us, because God lives in us.
God Gave It First
You don’t have to wake up with enough love to make it through the day. If you feel like your reserves are empty, don’t worry! God has provided everything you need.
The apostle John says, “We love God because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
God loved us enough to give us Jesus, and when we accept this gift we become children of God, re-made in his image. It doesn't happen automatically, but is something that we can grow in, like a newborn child learns to walk and talk.
TAKING IT TO HEART: What is your greatest challenge this Christmas season? Whatever your challenge, think about how love can transform your situation.
Deciding on a gift to give someone? Struggling to make ends meet during a time family members are expecting gifts? Lacking someone with whom to share the holiday?
Have you thought about making a gift that reflects how well you know them and how much you love them? What about the gift of your time, and just taking each family member out individually for a simple ice cream cone where you can listen to their hopes and dreams for next year?
If you’re alone, maybe you can find someone else who is lonely to share a meal with and share God’s love by your presence. Or maybe you could have a “date with God”, light a candle to represent his presence in the room, eat a special meal and watch a movie with him, talking as if he’s there. Because he is.
CHALLENGE: Start practicing love in practical ways, using it as the motivator for each relationship interaction. “I have love inside me. How will I exercise it in this moment, with this person?”
P.S. Don’t forget to exercise love on YOURSELF. You can’t “love your neighbor as you love yourself” unless you apply God’s love to yourself first.