Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
This is a good message for Advent (or any time of year for that matter) as this is the time of year when we are all called to come together as the people of God, to prepare the way for the Lord; however, the holidays can often get in the way of our Advent spirit, as they can cause us frustration and stress which can strain relationships and take some of the light out of our celebrations.
Add to this, the current culture of dissention and contention that seems to be pervading American society these days, where it seems like everyone has to be right, and someone has to wrong, and compromise is becoming unknown…this attitude can make a rough holiday season even more difficult.
There is a story about a church group who was charged with picking out the congregation’s annual Christmas tree: the group soon broke into two sides, one faction had to have a large Douglas Fir, the other had to have a tall, thin Cedar tree, and neither side wanted to give in; so they discussed and argued over the issue for weeks, as even as Advent quickly approached!
Both sides debated the merits of their choice and derided those who disagreed, and in the process the entire congregation became polarized, and the controversy eventually threatened to derail the more important ministries of the church, such as their outreach to the homeless, donations to the local food bank, and the effort to welcome new people into the church during the holiday season; the contention within the church also threatened their holiday plans, such as the Sunday School Christmas Pageant, Caroling, and even worship.
Finally, as the first Sunday of Advent approached, the pastor had seen enough, she saw that the arguing was hurting the church, and so she got together with the leaders of both factions (Douglas Fir and Cedar) and together they made a decision (which was not an easy task); and it was decided that the church would invest in an artificial tree, which would look nice and full, be tall, and would stop the arguing once and for all!
This was a decision everyone could agree on…as no one was happy about it! However, it did cause the “warring” factions of the congregation to see how foolish the whole thing had become, and how damaging it had been to the church…and when the vote was cast, everyone accepted the idea of a safe, beautiful and universally un-liked artificial tree!
And for years later, that tree stood as a reminder of the disagreement that almost tore the church in two, and of the importance of learning to work together, not in spite of our differing opinions, but to use those opinions to find a compromise that works for everyone.
So, it can be in our families…as single parents, we often find ourselves at odds with our kids, and sometimes with their other parent or even our own families. I learned long ago (which surprises me) that butting heads wastes a lot of time and ensures that nothing gets done, instead it is better to work together, to put aside our differences and find a compromise.
Putting aside differences also means to put aside our malice towards those who may have hurt us; this does not mean to say that what happened was okay, but to forgive and move on, for the sake of our children, and to make sure that we do not share any negative thoughts about the other people in our children’s lives with them, or to go out of our way to perpetuate conflicts that can only cause problems.
It is only through working together that we can find the best way forward, for our children and ourselves; this is an especially important thing to remember at this time of year, when life can get even more hectic, and when family tensions can rise, causing us to forget that the ‘reason for the season’ is the celebration of the light that came into the world at Christmas!
Living in this light, we are called to “Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander….and be kind to one another”, and in doing so, we are sharing the love and grace of God, as given to us through the gift of Christ: a gift that we are meant to share with each other.
Let us Pray
God, please help us to be kind and loving to one another, to accept each other regardless of our differences, and to learn from each other because of them. Help us to teach our children how to walk in faith with you, by being ready to compromise, and work together with each other, even those who they may disagree with. Thank you for loving us regardless of our failings, and for always being there with us and our children, as we prepare your way in our world.