How will others 'read' us at Christmas?
Children are learning machines. From birth they observe their world and the people who inhabit it. Even if you wanted to stop children from learning you'd find it difficult. We often lament the fact that our children don't (or won't!) learn the things we want them to. But in many ways, a much bigger problem is the fact that they learn lots of things we'd prefer them not to learn, simply by observing us.
At Christmas Christian families have great opportunities inside and outside their homes to speak about and demonstrate the reality that Christ lives (!) in their hearts and lives. And yet, it is easy at times to inadvertently lead people to wonder whether this is so. Our lives can easily provide confused messages and priorities to our children and friends. This is a challenge for all of us not just parents of young children.
So as we approach Christmas it might do us all a lot of good, young and old, singles and parents, male and female, to consider in advance how our family members will 'read' us at this time when we celebrate God's grace and mercy in entering the world in the person of Jesus. It might also be worth taking some time to think about those situations that put us under the greatest pressure. The times, places and activities where and when we fail! I offer some questions below for self-evaluation that I've framed broadly enough for those of us who don't have young children.
Do we speak of God's grace at this time and yet demonstrate lack of forgiveness in our attitudes, actions and words towards and with our family members, fellow Christians, workmates and neighbours?
Do we talk of the love of Christ and yet demonstrate a coldness of heart that fails to show patience, kindness, and gentleness in the way we deal with others?
Do we speak of the generosity of God in sending his Son into the world and yet demonstrate avarice, greed, envy and jealousy?
Do we speak of the priority of Christ in our lives and yet at this time demonstrate in our actions that other things gain priority over our devotion, love and service in Christ's name?
Paul challenges his readers in several of his letters to be imitators of godly men and women who in turn are imitators of Christ (1 Corinthians 4:16
; 1 Thessalonians 1:6
). Similarly, the writer to the Hebrew church exhorts his readers to be imitators of those who through faith and patience have inherited the promises of God (Hebrews 6:12
People read us every day. How will they read us this Christmas?