Why do I need practices to prepare for Christmas love? Because I’m feisty. And opinionated. And I like to be right. (Maybe I’m the only wretched one here? Or can you relate?)
Also, the most wonderful time of the year comes with the inevitable hard holiday moments. You know they’re coming…
- Aunt Ella-Belle will ask you if you’re dating anyone. Again.
- Uncle Sam will insist on bringing up the election even though you begged him not to.
- Your much-loved-but-unnamed-friend will need to debate some theological jot or tittle.
- Your friend who can really cook will sigh in disappointment when she bites into your slightly burned pie.
Brace for a version of one of these things or ALL OF THEM. You know they’re around the corner.
So how can we prepare to respond in love, being godly women who speak up in godly ways? Or how can we choose to not speak at all?
I believe that Esther shows us three practices that will help us to prepare ahead and practice love in the moment, so we’ll let her help us on the Thursdays leading up to Christmas. I’ll be sending a short tidbit to pave our personal way into loving well at our Christmas gatherings.
Practice #1- Listen
In Esther 2:15, Esther displays the power of listening rather than leading with what she thought she knew, “When the turn came for Esther (the young woman Mordecai had adopted, the daughter of his uncle Abihail) to go to the king, she asked for nothing other than what Hegai, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the harem, suggested. And Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her.”
Esther asked Hegai, the expert in the situation, for guidance, and she listened to his advice. She shows us that listening can win the favor of those around our table this holiday.
If we truly want to be godly women who speak up in godly ways, we have to spend time with God. Full stop. There’s no short-cut on this, and I’m preaching to myself too. Only listening to God can flood us with His Spirit, keeping our fleshly reactions in check.
In the coming weeks, we practice listening well by setting aside time with God each day.
It’s a good time to mix it up instead of just checking it off too. I’m often distracted by 100 items on my to-do list, so I need some help focusing. Here are a few things I’ve been doing to create space for listening to God:
- Cultivate silence. Find a quiet space, still your mind, and set a timer for 5 minutes. Listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit.
- Read the words in red. There’s something about reading Jesus’ words in the Gospels that shapes the way I use my words. It’s a way to listen to Him and His heart.
- Pick up a Christmas devotional. I need short and focused reading during this busy season, so I signed up for a devotion that’s texted to me daily. There are so many advent devotions around, so find one today to take you through the season.
Listening to God before we gather is the only way to set ourselves up for success in the hard moments. He will give us power in this pre-Christmas pause.
Practice in the Moment
Let’s go into our holiday gatherings determined to listen more than we talk. More importantly, let’s remember that listening = love, not agreement. When someone begins to express opinions we disagree with or ask questions that cross our boundaries, let’s prepare some questions ahead of time that will help us understand that person better.
Here are some examples:
- What makes that so important to you?
- How did you come to that conclusion?
- Will you explain that to me so that I can understand?
- What would make this feel better for you?
Listening is the first of three practices to prepare for love in our Christmas gatherings and all that follow. What will you do to grow your capacity to listen this Christmas?
Two Ways to Grow in 2023
Study Esther with Lynn and Me
Beginning January 9th, Lynn Cowell and I will be leading an online study of our new book, Esther: Seeing Our Invisible God in an Uncertain World. We’re going to be diving deep. Simply.
Each week we’ll send a link for a Zoom meeting on Wednesday evenings where Lynn and I will do a bonus teaching from that week’s passage. Then, we’ll discuss as a community. We’ll keep it simple but rich!
To sign up, simply enter your email address at the top of this page, and then purchase the study from your favorite book seller. We hope you’ll join us!
Go on Pilgrimage to Italy with Me
Our early-bird discount– an astonishing $700 off– for traveling to Italy Sept. 21-28 ends December 15th. There are only 4 spots left, so register here today!