Tips for Treasuring the Season: Celebrate Christmas With People, Not In Spite Of Them! (8)

A former church member once confessed she wished she loved people as much as I do. True to sanctification’s form, a short time later Jared and I went through a really rough period in our ministry and I realized how quickly love potion wears off. Some people are gifted in relational leadership. By that I mean they are just “good with people.” Others of us work hard in our relationships to stay genuine, vulnerable, honest, and loving. As I evaluate myself and my “wake”, as Dr. Henry Cloud describes our influence on those around us[1], I remember seasons I loved well and seasons I did not bear God’s image well to others. The trigger creating a loveless vacuum for me personally, is undoubtedly stress. When I become overwhelmed, I either lash out at those closest to me or completely withdraw. I justify my social withdrawal as protecting myself from ministerally “faking it.” I know my past efforts to “fake it” do not sell, as I usually wear on my face the overflow of my heart.

The bottom line:  we are called to love. In Genesis 1:26, Moses reminds the newly freed Israelites that God made His people in His image, calling them to represent Him. Psalm 145:9 tells us God has compassion on all He made, and 1 John 3 calls all believers to be known by Christ-like love. When we realize the height, depth, and width of God’s love for us, in spite of our unfaithfulness and idolatry, we cannot help but love others as we have been loved. And if you, like me, find the holiday season to be at times overwhelming and stressful, my tendency is to pull back and withdraw (ironically during a season when spreading the gospel takes very little effort)!  During these times of snowballing responsibilities, I rely heavily on the Holy Spirit’s reminder of God’s unfathomable love for me, so I may glorify Christ in my love for others.

Many families struggle during the Christmas season due to past, present, and potentially future conflicts amongst family members. Sometimes, we are tempted to withdraw and take the easier road when it comes to time spent with the ones we have the most difficulty loving. In our years of ministry, I have heard a few stories, shared tears with women as they anxiously anticipated Christmas family fallouts, and experienced a few in my own family. If you find yourself in that place this year, anxious and possibly dreading what is coming, I pray Christ’s love would propel you to a bird’s eye perspective. This perspective will enable you to see the eternal value in staying the course, love those He has connected you to, and find fulfillment and peace in the love He has for you. I pray Christmas this year is celebrated with people, not in spite of them. Christ’s love is sufficient!

Patrick Christmas 2007

Burt Family 2012

I leave you with a link and lyrics to a song I hope will be an encouragement to you this year as you pray over and plan for the season.

“By Our Love” by Christy Nockels

Brothers, let us come together

Walking in the Spirit, there’s much to be done…
We will come reaching, out from our comforts
And they will know us by our love…

Sisters, we were made for kindness
We can pierce the darkness as He shines through us…
We will come reaching, with a song of healing…
And they will know us by our love!

The time is now
Come Church arise…
Love with His hands
See with His eyes…
Bind it around you,
Let it never leave you,
And they will know us by our love…

Song on YouTube:

[1] Henry Cloud, Integrity : The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality (New York: Collins, 2006).