“Let all that you do be done in love.” ~1 Corinthians 16:14
There’s nothing like the Christmas season to test one’s capacity to love.
For example, I had to remember how much I love being American after driving by a Kmart store on Thanksgiving evening that was open for pre-Black Friday shopping.
I had to force myself to think loving thoughts toward a relative who sent an email list of gifts he’d like for Christmas, and ignore the fact that in it he didn’t ask what we wanted or even how we were doing.
I’ve had to work extra hard lately to love going to the gym (always a challenge regardless of the time of year), which unfortunately is located by a mall, because it’s now taking twice as long to get there due to holiday shopping traffic.
Finally, I have to try really hard to feel loving and generous about spending money I’d rather save to instead buy gifts for close to 20 people who don’t need them, for no other reason than it’s expected this time of year. Somehow Jesus’s birthday sparked a Spendandgimmepalooza in our culture. Or was it the advertisers who did that?
In all seriousness, the Christmas season can test our capacity to love in so many ways. For some of us, there are those dreaded family gatherings with relatives who know how to push our buttons, sadness over missing loved ones who are no longer with us, nostalgia over Christmas days long past. Some of us feel empty, lonely, and left out during the season.
Corinthians says love is patient and kind, but how many of us are patient when waiting in long check out lines or in crawling mall traffic? How many of us are kind to salespeople in crowded stores or are ready to bully others for our right to the last gadget standing? We’ve all heard horror stories of Black Friday stampedes and deaths.
This Christmas season, I’m going to try hard to remember why the holiday exists, which is to celebrate the birth of Christ. I’m going to try and focus on the elements that give Christmas its magic – the beauty of lights, traditions, music and carols, the spirit of peace and childlike joy that pervades our hearts, if only we can slow down long enough to feel it.
When all else fails, there is always love.