Each of us has been around a newborn baby and been enveloped by the gentleness a baby evokes. Our movements slow down. Our voices soften. Our gazes are inevitably drawn in.
This gentleness is what I imagine God wants us to continue using with each other on a daily basis. To meet each other’s gaze and speak softly to one another. To soften our hard edges with one another.
“Let your gentleness be evident to all.” Philippians 4:5
Practicing gentleness may be especially difficult if we get too caught up in the stress of this season’s demands. We encounter long lines at the grocery store, post office, and retail stores. Exhibiting gentleness with the cashier or the harried shopper tapping her foot behind you may take extra effort this week, but this simple act can change someone’s day dramatically if we do.
Our children have been living the hype for the last couple weeks of school. In the myriad of Christmas programs, classroom parties, and family gatherings, how often are we slowing down to help them savor the moment? One of the ways we’ve tried to do this is by using props that are woven into our Christmas decorations and family routine in December.
We’ve been attempting to do our Advent box each evening as a way to refocus on Jesus as the center of Christmas. In each opening there’s a few pieces of candy and a slip of paper with a suggested activity:
— Read a Christmas book together
— Bake some Christmas cookies
— Snuggle and watch a holiday show
— Do something nice for another family
— Wrap presents together
This year we’ve added Advent notecards to facilitate family discussion into a deeper level, incorporating scripture and a thought-provoking question to ponder. Our youngest likes to hang them up by the fireplace as a visual countdown.
Several years ago a friend gave us a cute container filled with conversation prompts. I incorporated this into our table centerpiece and we take turns drawing from it each night. These simple prompts nudge us to share about Christmas memories, to imagine specific things about the real nativity scene, to contemplate what the wise men talked about on their way to the stable, or to identify our favorite holiday food or song. These simple things cause us to linger a little longer with each other around the table and we often are laughing about what’s been shared as we move on to wash the dishes.
As parents we’ve made a more concerted effort to play games and watch holiday shows during winter break. This takes some extra energy because those to-do lists seem never-ending as we prepare for all of the extra holiday activities. Simply putting these ideas onto paper inside the advent box keeps us moving toward our intentions set earlier in the month. It helps us be gentle with ourselves in the midst of the rush, giving us permission to regroup and refocus with our family, slowing down the pace a bit.
During each of these advent activities, we gather together. We snuggle in beside each other on the couch or make eye contact with each other across the dinner table. As parents we try to add a gentle word or gesture to keep the kiddos on track, reconnecting with them in a light-hearted way.
It’s amazing how a gentle word or touch can impact the family’s overall mood. For seeming like a “meek” Fruit of the Spirit, Gentleness sure is powerful. How might you use it today in your daily tasks or as you gather with your family?