This Christmas I want to encourage you to make it all about you!
I know. That isn't what you'd expect someone—especially a pastor!—to encourage you. I'll explain.
Christmas is often a time of being around family, friends, social gatherings, etc. In any of those environments there are often people that stretch your ability to love and be patient, or whose ways or words wound or challenge or anger you. Often there are people with whom there is a history and things hard to let go of. In this most beautiful of times, often the people we are around can strain us, and the times that should be the most wonderful can become the most ugly.
An account of a time in David's life has become one our family returns to often. It has a lot of bearing on this subject. It is told in 1 Samuel 25 and it involves a time when David sent men to an awful, rich man named Nabal, asking for food. David told his men, "And thus you shall greet him: ‘Peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have. I hear that you have shearers. Now your shepherds have been with us, and we did them no harm, and they missed nothing all the time they were in Carmel. Ask your young men, and they will tell you. Therefore let my young men find favor in your eyes, for we come on a feast day. Please give whatever you have at hand to your servants and to your son David.’” (verses 6–8)
Well . . . Nabal is Nabal, and he basically mocks David and sends the men away with nothing and David responds by telling his men to strap on their swords. David said, “Surely in vain have I guarded all that this fellow has in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that belonged to him, and he has returned me evil for good. God do so to the enemies of David and more also, if by morning I leave so much as one male of all who belong to him” (verses 21–22). In David's response his heart is revealed. He did good for Nabal, but he expected something back for it. And when he didn't get something back, he got angry and set off to sin, driven by his response to another man's ugliness and rudeness and ungratefulness—in response to another man's sin. And, this is our challenge—can we keep ourselves free from sin, despite the sins of others that drive us to anger, hurt, feeling walked on, etc.?
And so, I encourage you this Christmas season, if you are put into positions where the people around you make feelings rise in you that aren't Godly—make it all about you! Focus your heart and prayers on being the one who is Godly, regardless of how those around you might be. Fix your eyes on God and yourself, and purpose in your heart that each person's actions will be between them and God—but that their actions won't cause you to sin. Make it about you. Focus on you. Say, "I will love. I will respond with gentleness. I will not sin. Regardless of those around me. I will not let them have the power to cause me to sin. I will not change who I am with Christ in me, because of who they are."
How other people act is up to them, and between them and God. How I act is my responsibility. If I let another person cause me to sin, I have let them have more power over me then God in me has at the time. You and I can't do this on our own—we are weak, fleshly, and sinful without Christ. But with Christ in us, we can do all things. Christ showed us the way. He loved when not loved back. He served when unappreciated. He lived His life in response to God and not man. And He has promised us that in Him there is no temptation too great that there is not provided for us a way out. And to sin in response to another's sin is surely a temptation we all face.
Make it about you! Focus on you and your responses. Love others, but don't give them the power to quench the light of Christ shining out of you. It is Christmas! It is a glorious time of year. It is that time when many who otherwise might have hard and angry hearts find a little softness toward the message of Christ and we can not only tell, but we can show, the good news of great joy that is unto all people! But it begins with showing that Christ in us—our glorious Immanuel Christmas reality!—is greater than the power of the world to change us.