Part of the Christmas Season is not just the peaceful image of families and strangers gathering in homes across the world to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the advent of the Christian era. Part of the preparation are also jokes about the various kinds of challenges that are anticipated when people come together who don't spend much time with each other during the year - bringing different habits, different viewpoints to the Christmas celebration. You might have noticed these comments, too, or read about them in articles - or jokes about the mother-in-law, the racist uncle, the aunt talking too much, the talk about 'the good old days'", etc. You get the idea. So on the surface the harmonious Christmas gathering is present, while under the surface more people than you might think dread the Christmas Season for obvious reasons. So lets dive under the surface and take up those fears - and heal them. There is an expert in relationships - someone who built up and fortified the first Christian communities, who, in some ways, are not unlike us at all. This expert is Paul.
Paul has the perfect guidelines for us. Every one of us, who knows something about the goodness of Life, the Love, that alone is Life, has the task to share this love with others. It is my sense that Paul did observe patterns in the various communities and families he worked with - people meeting, working or eating together. In order to be direct and not to be mistaken, he prepared something which we today would probably call "a bullet point" list.
Get along among yourselves, each of you doing your part. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs. And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out. Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live. (from his first letter to the Thessalonians, chapter 5. The Message)
There is no other reason to meet anybody for Christmas (or beyond) than to bless - to do good to others, to listen. In short, the reason for any interaction with anyone else is giving and not getting. Loneliness is not a reason, self-importance is not a reason, human will is not a reason, tradition is not a reason. The only reason is love.
In order to put these guidelines into practice there is a powerful preparation, fortifying oneself ahead of time, shedding more light on Paul's guidelines with Christian Science. Barbara Vining, the editor-in-chief of the Christian Science Periodicals, shared insights about a family gathering and how she prepared in the article "Illustrating the ethics of divine Love", which you might enjoy.
May your days be filled with goodness and the unique joy which lights up the heart when we look out for the best in each other. Or, as Kate Mullane Robertson puts it in a wonderfully poetic way:
"There is nothing more beautiful than the eyes of someone who is seeking beauty in others."
Who is writing?
In my work as Christian Science practitioner and writer I draw on listening to God and listening to people.