Recipe for Loving-kindness

It’s the time of year when most North Americans are experiencing lots of hustle and bustle in preparation for Christmas. And yet, that isn’t really what Christmas is all about, is it?

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,

    and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). —Matthew 1:22-23

Christmas is the way in which God shows his great love, by sending his son to us. Therefor, Christ’s birth is really all about God demonstrating his great love for us.

That got me thinking… what better way to commemorate the Christmas season, then to spend time demonstrating Christ’s love for me? Forget all the piles of gifts and the stockings of tchotchkes. Forgot stressing over the holiday parties and school plays. OK, I’m not saying everyone should completely give up Christmas, but then again… I do think we could stand to radically change our focus this time of year.

These past few years in Nicaragua, Christmas has looked completely different for us. Our “to buy” list is a tiny fraction of what it used to be. Our calendar is a lot more open, and our stress level is significantly lower than it was in previous Decembers. It wasn’t that we necessarily set out for that to happen, but it just did.

This year, when we were deciding our departure date, we told the girls we could go as soon as their school semester ended, or wait until after the holiday. They unanimously voted to remain in Nicaragua for Christmas, and I will admit I was a little surprised, as well as totally relieved. I wasn’t looking forward to navigating all that hustle and bustle so soon after our return, but I also hadn’t realized how much they enjoyed this laid back Latin American Christmas as well.

So now, I want to try and capture a bit of this “different” Christmas to take home with me as we relocate back to the States. Our life here is mostly one of unconditional, sacrificial service. Again, we didn’t necessarily set out to do that, but God made it abundantly clear it is what He calls us — as believers — to.

How do we live this unconditional, sacrificial service in the States? How do we celebrate a season that is all about God demonstrating his unconditional, sacrificial love for us?

By practicing it daily.

A recipe for loving-kindness

Here’s my attempt at a way to practice it: a recipe for loving-kindness. More specifically, this is a schedule for cultivating that loving-kindness through acts of love and service to others. They say it takes two weeks of doing something daily to form a habit. Perhaps two weeks of attempting unconditional and sacrificial service—where we don’t expect a thank you or place any conditions on our giving—will help build lasting and meaningful “resolutions” for us all to start off the New Year.

Maybe you start it now (there are just two weeks left of the year!) or maybe you hold off and wait until January 1st. Regardless, let’s pursue unconditional loving-kindness in our lives and in our relationships over the coming year.

Note: You can really do these in any order you’d like. I’m including them here in my suggested order, but feel free to change it up according to your own needs. Here’s a PDF version of this calendar, a printable schedule for cultivating loving-kindness in your life.