We are heading toward the holiday season with Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s right before us. These can be joyous times we spend with family and close friends. They can also be times of sadness and sorrow, as we lament the loss of loved ones who are no longer here to share these times with us.

As we draw family together during the times ahead, we also need to remember these gatherings can provide some tension, some anxiety, some sense of reluctance on the part of some. It can be hard to gather people together who may or may not share the same views, perspectives and ideologies as others.

Reflecting on all of the above, I can remember holidays past in my own family where tempers were short, angry words were exchanged, even actions which were less than loving occurred. It happens. These kinds of times, although we want to idealize them as “the happiest season of all,” don’t always play out that way.

Berating and guilting those we gather with is not the way we should conduct ourselves. Words and actions exchanged can’t always be withdrawn, and “Sorry” doesn’t always smooth things over.

I want to offer for us a guiding scripture from Galatians 5:22-23. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” As followers of Jesus, we will remember he promised to send the Holy Spirit to be with us. To guide our actions and to direct our paths. If we are abiding in the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit in us, then we will exhibit the fruits and traits in our words and actions.

I want to hone in on the last two fruits of the Spirit for our consideration. Gentleness and self-control. These can be important for us to let shine in our interactions in the coming days and weeks.

We should exercise gentleness with those around us. Gentleness would lead us to not feel the need to press our points and perspectives in our conversations. Gentleness would see no need to correct others, or to insist on the rightness of our positions. But gentleness is also for us, as much as it is with others. During these times when tension and anxiety can overcome us, we need to be gentle with ourselves. That gentleness may come in the form of our limiting the time we spend with those we tend to be at odds with. It may mean quietly withdrawing from conversations which raise the angst within us. We need to exercise the fruit of gentleness for the sake of our, and our loved one’s relationship.

Self-control is the fruit of the Spirit I don’t always try my hardest to bear. Self-control requires us to truly tamp down our egos and self-perspectives. In part one of William Shakespeare’s King Henry the Fourth, Falstaff says, “Caution is preferable to rash bravery.” From that statement we glean “discretion is the better part of valor.” By that we mean, “avoiding a dangerous or unpleasant situation is sometimes the sensible thing to do.” My father would have said it this way, “There’s a reason you were given two ears and one mouth. Listen more, speak less.” In many of our interactions, I’m quite sure “less is more” is a good reminder for us to exercise self-control.

I know this has been a little “preachy,” and for that I apologize. Usually when it veers into preaching, I’m directing it at myself. I simply want all of us to have the happiest and most joyous holiday season possible. For myself, I intend to diligently seek to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit.

May the holidays ahead be some of the best of times for all of us.

Your companion on the Way,

Pastor Tom

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