Your package is ready, but there are 15 people ahead of you in a post office line. Ugh! You have made it to your holiday destination, but your luggage hasn't. Only 12 people ahead of you at the airline help desk. Yuck!
It just might be your day.
As you scramble from the post office to department stores to transportation counters, some errands this holiday will leave you standing back-to-back, shoulder-to-shoulder or face-to-face with others.
Fight the temptation to grumble and complain or to join the "commiseration chorus," the anesthesia we most commonly seek.
There's a better choice this Christmas.
What if this season you strive to see such unwelcome, unplanned delays in your schedule as "divine opportunities" for inviting others into conversations of spiritual significance?
After all, even the coming of Christmas brought some change to the agenda of Joseph and Mary one holiday.
"Always be ready to share your faith," wrote Bill Bright in his book Witnessing Without Fear. "It could well be that God has led that person to you, because you know the good news and that person needs to hear it."
In even 5 to 15 minutes of being stranded in a line -- or in about the time it takes Santa to make his way down a chimney and back -- you can help move another person closer to Christ.
While waiting, you will have time to do more than give a friendly smile or voice "Merry Christmas." Who knows? You may even have a chance to communicate the gospel.
But you don't have to communicate the entirety of the Four Spiritual Laws or necessarily end with a challenge for another to pray and receive Jesus to have a dialogue that could help another contemplate Christianity.
By just being purposeful, you may build a new friendship, move one to think of Jesus in a fresh way or be able to extend an invite to a quality Christmas musical or Christmas Eve service.
Pray for patience. Pray that God and His Holy Spirit would supply you confidence in Christ and guide your talk. Then, even as you listen, offer brief prayers in your mind (e.g. "Lord, what would You have me to say next?" or "Lord, would You do something in this person's heart?").
Pace yourself. Go slow -- just as that Christmas stocking by your chimney is to be hung with care. Be comfortable with some pauses and breaks, especially if you can see that you may be in line awhile.
Ask any of the 5 suggested Christmas-related questions or a question of your own that shows interest in the other person or helps to reveal a person's thoughts, attitudes or feelings. Behind faces of feigned merriment, many at Christmas are struggling with heartache, hardship, loneliness or loss.
Listen for opportunities to present a bit of your personal faith story or to talk of what Christmas means to you.
Be watchful for opportunities to bridge from Christmas to Easter and communicate all or a part of the gospel. Many people today need help in seeing the relationship between Jesus, the babe in a manger, and the One who died and rose again as our Savior and Lord.
"Loving others, showing them Jesus Christ in word and deed, is not a job for pastors or ministry workers only," added Bill Bright. "It is a joyful toil, to which God has commissioned everyone who calls himself a Christian."
So, Merry Christmas. And may your interruptions be blessed.
Taking time to meditate on the many names of Jesus can enrich your worship.
Jesus, our Alpha and Omega, existed before Creation and will return to rule forever. He is the consistency our hearts long for.
When anxiousness or discouragement creeps in, I try to remind myself that rescue is just around the corner.
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