Howdy! How’s everybody doing? Have you survived Advent and the Christmas rush and madness so far? Are your cards mailed? How many dinners do you need to prep for , or have you already attended? Are the gifts bought? Wrapped? Here I sit at the computer, it’s nearly midnight, my house looks like bomb exploded in here, and I don’t even remember what I’ve bought or for whom, let alone have it all out to wrap. Dinner? Thank God for my oldest daughter’s mom-in-love… Take a minute, find a spot to relax and grab a cuppa something you like. I’ll tell you a story, and maybe it will help brighten your day.
Hopefully, you’re being blessed and are excited about this season of the year. But maybe you aren’t. Maybe you’re dreading the family get-togethers, the crazy schedules, the long drives, the outrageous comments and useless or tacky gifts. Maybe you lost someone this past year, and the holidays feel empty, and you’re just plain sad. That’s okay. I’m not about to tell you to get with it, or snap out of it, or any of those things. But if I can give you a smile for a minute in the midst of your sadness, I’ve accomplished my goal for you today.
While I was in Israel back in November, we were able ride a camel. The handlers helped us crawl up onto the camel’s saddle, stood him up and led us around a tiny parking lot, then we climbed off. For those of you who have never done this, you really must try it someday. It’s sort of like a cross between bull riding in ultra slow motion and being in a giant over-sized, slightly unstable rocking chair. Sort of. Like I said, you just have to do it. I think every Christian needs to go to the Holy Land once in their lifetime. I’ve been blessed to go twice, and would go again at the drop of a hat. There is nothing to fear if the Lord sends you; the tourist spots are the most well-protected, since that’s where the majority of their income is derived. Okay, rabbit trail over.
Back to the camel ride. Camels are big and smelly. They have bad breath and sometimes bad tempers. They really aren’t pretty. But we each received an unexpected sweetness from this interesting activity. Once I dismounted, and was still standing close to his head, the handler gave him a signal and… he curled back his lips and gave me a smooch on the cheek. Yes, folks, it’s true. I’ve been kissed by a camel. I think Ceci got a photo of it, so that will be a story forever. Kissed by a camel, lol!
Holiday gatherings can be that way, too. If we can manage to take our eyes off of ourselves for a few moments and really look at the people around us, we can usually find a reason to smile. Maybe Uncle Harry’s tired old story is his 10 minutes of fame once a year- and is especially important now that Aunt Marge has passed on. Maybe Granny’s knitted mittens (the 30th pair, at least!) is her favorite way to show love – something useful, something handmade, something she knitted while she prayed for you. Maybe instead of resenting and rebuffing cousin Luke’s ‘religious pushiness’, we need to take an honest look at the claims of Christ and what that might mean in our own life.
Instead of sitting in judgment of our family members, we can look for their good qualities – the alcoholic has a heart of gold, the four-time divorcee cares for her kids and her mother, the old over-talkative uncle repairs the bike of every kid on his block, free of charge. Maybe we have one who’s in a same-sex relationship. Instead of criticizing or condemning, let’s show all of them the LOVE of Jesus. How do we show love to all these folks? With a genuine smile, a genuine interest in their story, a genuine interest in their life activities. You might be surprised to find out that Uncle Harry could use help grocery shopping, or that divorcee could use some help with the kids sometimes. Maybe that one in the same-sex relationship is actually empty and lonely, and needs someone safe to confide in.
Maybe you would secretly like to know a little more about Jesus, maybe you have questions. I promise He’s all about mercy and not condemnation or beating you over the head. He wants to heal the hurts and help the weaknesses. So, find a pastor or priest who represents Him this way. Talk to them. I can pretty much guarantee you won’t be kissed by a camel. But you may find some unexpected sweetness this season.