As we said yesterday, it’s that time of year—the time where you pack your suitcases, electronic paraphernalia and various other necessities to drive hours and hours to go see family and friends. Oh yes, and don’t forget the children—you can’t leave them at home as much as a few days of peace and quiet sounds appealing :-). As Liz said, she and I have been mulling over various ways to improve our time with family over the holidays. Don’t get me wrong, I really look forward to spending time with my family, especially chewing over the theology. But there will always be those moments of conflict. It would be foolish to assume otherwise. So here’s the question, “How can we view our time with family as a chance to be more like Christ?”
First, serve your family before and during the hours of travel.
Surprised? Well, if you are like us, you may be facing some quality car time in the near future. The “holidays” start sooner than we think they do because most of us don’t count the travel time as a valid part of the whole holiday experience. But you wouldn’t want to miss out on all that time spent on preparation (3ish hours for us) and driving (18ish hours for us)—that’s 21 hours of pure holiday right there:-). So how will you help your wife or husband pack for the trip? Will you thank them for that help? How will you make the trip feel less like a cage match between you and your family (just in case you thought we placed the bar too high:-)? How will you act during the multitude of bathroom breaks? What will you say when your choice of fast food lunch is shot down? How will you leverage the time to talk to your children and spouse about God? In short, how will you show that you “count others more significant than yourself” (Phil 2:3)?
Second, serve them when they make mistakes.
Here’s a newsflash for you: At some point during the holidays someone will make a mistake that costs you something (time, money, etc.). You will most likely notice (and why is it that we are so quick to notice mistakes but so slow to notice service?). At that moment you may be tempted to get annoyed and put out because the situation inconveniences you (or embarrasses you, or ruins the mood, etc.). But in the that moment of temptation, I challenge you to love that person by brushing off the mistake, taking no offense, deciding not to speak of it to others, and instead offering to help them fix whatever it was that went wrong.
Third, make it a point to serve more often than you are served.
This seems like it would be obvious. Christ came at Christmas “not to be served, but to serve and give his life a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45) and Thanksgiving is all about giving the sacrifice of worship to God—for his love endures forever (Ps 136)! Yet you and I don’t normally go on vacations to serve people. In fact, if you’re anything like me, a good vacation consists of maximizing comforts with a minimal expense of time, energy and money. Now imagine a house full of people trying to do this ( can anyone say a James 4:1 situation waiting to happen)? Is it any wonder that holiday get-togethers devolve into a maelstrom of competing desires? These competing desires can vary from which ballgame or movie to watch to when and what to eat, to who gets the best guest room, to shower time in the morning. Yet every year we go intending that it be a “nice family time.” Try something different this year. Make it a point to serve everyone at least once (or twice if you’re really brave) and see what God can do with that kindness and love. Even if the rest of them don’t notice, you will have undertaken to be more like Christ—and what better way to show thanksgiving and praise for what God has done through Christ?
Fourth, make it a point to serve (encourage, give hope, cause to think) someone spiritually.
And here is where the real fun begins. Not only are you supposed to serve physically, but you actually have to talk about something deeper than tinsel and tastebuds. I’m not saying you should force people into conversations they don’t want to have, but I think you should do your best to show concern for them spiritually. Ask questions about how they’ve been doing in raising their children. Find out what they’re struggling with. Offer to wake up early and pray with them about it. Now, this might come across as fake in some families. If that’s the case, have a private time of prayer during the week (they don’t need to know you’re praying for them for it to work). Try to find some other way of showing the love of Christ authentically. When all is said and done, they should know that you really care about them and their walk with God.
Liz and I are still working on the implementation of these principles. Oh, we’re not even close to getting them right, but I’m glad were making headway (or at least facing the right direction:-). I’m praying that God will work in our hearts to do this better over the coming holiday season. Let the example of our Christ (Phil 2) help us embrace the law of Christ through his grace: “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.” Mk 10:43–44a. So, ready or not, here come the holidays.