The holiday season seems somehow to bring out the best and the worst in people.
Aren’t we all inspired by the heartwarming stories of folks giving secret surprises or performing extra-mile helps to brighten the lives of others at Christmastime?
We love to hear about someone dropping a solid gold bar or a diamond ring into a charity bell ringer’s bucket outside a busy shopping mall.
We may even tear up to see a news story about a long-lost prodigal returning home to a warm welcome and reconciled relationship.
On the other hand, Christmas can make people downright crabby.
I’ve been there. I’ve been the crabber and the crabbed. Recently, I faced an in-your-face reminder of this curious holiday phenomenon.
Finishing up at the checkout counter of a local store, I caught the lady behind me huffing and puffing and groaning. "Could you just hurry up?" she growled at the cheery cashier and me, as we exchanged a quick holiday pleasantry.
I turned and glanced at the impatient customer, realizing then that this was the same lady I had seen a few moments earlier in another department, struggling to pull an item off a wall rack. I had set down my stuff to help her untangle and remove the things she wanted.
"Are you looking for one of these, too?" she'd asked.
I'm not sure she connected the dots in the checkout line. Maybe it wouldn't have mattered.
Just before I left, I leaned in to whisper to the long-suffering checkout clerk, "Be extra nice to the lady behind me. She's probably had a rough day."
And I meant it. The lamenting lady likely had a long list of tasks to accomplish before her day was over. Maybe she’d faced a personal tragedy. Possibly, a nagging health condition made her uncomfortable and irritable.
Or it could be she was just feeling a little crabby at Christmastime.
God only knows.
Perhaps we’ve all had grouchy, Grinchy days. We’ve all had folks step ahead of us in crowds, pull into our chosen parking spots, or even confront us rudely for no apparent reason.
If we say that we have no sin,
we deceive ourselves,
and the truth is not in us.
(1 John 1:8, KJV)
Frustration is part of the human condition in a fallen world, isn’t it?
Perhaps we’ve all encountered folks who shocked us, in our own grumpiest moments, by treating us kindly.
All I know is this: Each of us can only choose our own actions and reactions.
None of us has to absorb the anxious, aggressive, or antagonistic attitudes of those around us. And others need not take on our occasional testiness, either.
If you love those who love you,
what reward will you get?
(Matthew 5:46a, NIV)
After all, what’s the end result of a knee-jerk response? Who becomes the jerk?
In His mercy, God often nudges our spirits to prompt us to stop and step back. Only then do we stand a chance of considering a gentler way, instead of a quick comeback or a quiet seething.
And be ye kind one to another,
forgiving one another,
even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
(Ephesians 4:32, KJV)
That’s grace. But it can be hard – so hard.
Oh, baby, we’re a long way from biblical Bethlehem.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus. In the meantime, help us to stop embarrassing You when we’re feeling a little moody, especially while preparing to celebrate Your birthday.
Salvation Army Bell Ringer by Dwight Burnette
Creative Commons Licensing Photos
US Navy photo by Journalist 2nd Class Jim Williams
US Government Photo/public domain
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