It’s December. And, whether you like it or not, that means you’re going to hear a lot of Christmas music, see a lot of commercialism, and receive a card or two in the mail. Capitalism has shifted much of the focus of Christmas away from Christ and toward buying gifts and throwing parties and entertaining oneself and others.
But what if we stopped for a few moments and remembered some of the stories of Jesus? Stories that teach principles with broad application across humanity regardless of whatever perceived differences we see among us. Stories that inspire us to treat others better, to show more kindness, and to elevate our thinking.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught of humility, mercy, and peacemaking. When we approach people with humility, it engenders unity. We do not set ourselves above anyone else. And we recognize that everyone has worth and the ability to teach us something that we do not already know. Mercy reminds us to be patient with each other, to allow for faults and shortcomings and to extend forgiveness when mistakes result in offenses. When mercy is extended to us, we are lifted and reminded of the good that is inherent in humanity. Peacemakers look beyond their own needs to those of others. By turning outwards and serving others, a peacemaker blesses the lives of those around her or him. What an interesting place this world would be if everyone put the needs of others before his or her own!
It was said of Jesus that “he went about doing good.” The New Testament records that he healed the sick, brought sight to those who were blind, restored the ability to walk to those who could not, and even brought renewed life to some who had passed on. In all of these accounts, Jesus demonstrates compassion, putting others before himself. Compassion means genuine concern for the sufferings and trials of others. When we have and feel compassion towards others, we are more patient, more empathetic, more interested. We take time to help lift another’s burden and help them along their way.
At one point, the New Testament tells of certain scribes and Pharisees who desired the condemnation of a woman who had sinned. Jesus responded that, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” Everyone left. Each of us has likely been in a situation where others have criticized us because of some mistake we have made. And each of us has also likely felt the relief of a compassionate response that lifted and inspired us, rather than tearing us down. How might the world around us change if we “went about doing good?”
A lawyer asked Jesus, “who is my neighbor”? In response, Jesus shared a parable of a man traveling who was attacked by thieves and left lying half dead on the side of the road. A priest and a Levite passed by him “on the other side” of the road. A Samaritan traveler happened upon the man and “had compassion on him,” stopping and caring for the wounded traveler. Then, Jesus asked the lawyer, “which . . . was neighbor unto him that fell among thieves?” When the lawyer responded that it was the man who had shown mercy, Jesus encouraged the lawyer to “go, and do . . . likewise.”
Humility, mercy, peacemaking, forgiveness, compassion – these are principles and character traits that can change the world. And it all begins with us. So this Christmas season, have fun. And also remember some of the great lessons that Jesus Christ taught. Lessons that have the power to make the world wonderful.
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