TODAY’S VERSE TO PONDER: Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up. – Proverbs 12:25 (NIV)
Like the old song says, it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas. What exactly does Christmas “look a lot like”? You tell me. And please be kind.
What Christmas looks like to me might be the polar opposite of what Christmas looks like to you; the definition of “the perfect Christmas Day” is as unique as the individual crafting that vision of holiday perfection inside his or her head. We traditionally sing wishes for “joy to the world,” but my joy at Christmastime might be your idea of absolute despair.
Indeed, Christmas can be one of the most stressful seasons of the year for some people. There are countless reasons why people too often slip into a yuletide funk: financial struggles, loneliness, conflict with loved ones, physical exhaustion, unrealistic expectations crashing head-on into our collective reality of broken, imperfect human beings living in a broken, mixed-up world.
A recent survey conducted in Great Britain revealed that nearly half of all men reported that they felt “sad” or “depressed” during the Christmas season. The National Women’s Health Resource Center conducted research that showed that two-thirds of women reported holiday depression. Whatever happened to all this “joy” the Christmas songwriters proclaimed?
The absence of joy at Christmas could be directly related to the apparent lack of Christ-like love, compassion and pure, simple fellowship in far too many Christmas celebrations.
The Britain-based Evangelical Alliance, an organization that professes to represent the UK’s two million evangelical Christians, cites a 2010 survey showing that 51 percent of people questioned said that the birth of Jesus Christ was “irrelevant” to their Christmas observances. Only 32 percent of those surveyed said they would attend a church service at Christmas. It’s pretty logical that the holiday named for Jesus Christ should include at least a little Christ-like behavior and worship.
Unfortunately, the question of “keeping Christ in Christmas” has been exploited as a hot-button political issue for some and been used as an excuse to incite conflict. Sadly, some hard-line evangelicals have managed to kill the joy of Christmas for others by picking misguided fights over someone choosing to wish others “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings” rather than “Merry Christmas.” Meanwhile, a nationwide survey showed that more than 80 percent of Americans quizzed on the subject really didn’t care which greeting someone offered, as long as it came from the heart.
So, rather than bracing for an ideological war over words, how different might the world look this Christmas if everybody on the militant “keep Christ in Christmas” bandwagon substituted the word “Christ” in that battle cry with its equivalent: LOVE? Who among us can argue with a cry to “keep LOVE in Christmas,” whatever your faith?
In Proverbs 12:25, the Bible warns the reader that “anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” (NIV) In this season when we are supposed to celebrate the joyful gift of salvation given by God in the birth of Jesus Christ, why would anyone purposely be unkind to another person simply because of words they use to convey kindness during this season of celebration? What kind of Christmas spirit is that? It’s probably not the Holy Spirit.
Let’s face it: we Christmas shoppers spend countless hours and billions of dollars trying to buy the “perfect gift” for those people on our list. How much more joyful could this season be if we spent a fraction of that shopping time actually thinking about how to be kind to other people in both deed AND word?
In the rush of Christmas commercialism, it is so easy for us to get busy, distracted, frazzled, impatient, preoccupied and otherwise focused on anything and everything except showing and saying to others how much we love them. By grumbling, fussing, complaining, criticizing and lashing out in anger and impatience, we sadly create unnecessary anxiety for ourselves and others, which as the Bible says, “weighs down the heart” in this season that is supposed to be so full of cheer.
Truly, the most special gift you can give someone this year can’t be bought in a big-box store; it lives right there in your heart and mind. And best of all, it’s free.
Today, while you’re out Christmas shopping, how about picking out a few “kind words” and give them away to the ones you love? You can make Christmas even more spontaneous and special by giving away a few of those unsolicited “kind words” to those perfect strangers impatiently standing in the epic line at the superstore.
This Christmas, joy to the world just might rest in the joy in your words.