Seems like everyone is wishing each other a Happy Thanksgiving, but few people stop their hustle and bustle long enough to consider what a happy holiday entails. We pull out our recipes for pumpkin pie, sweet potato casserole, holiday Jell-O, and eggnog, sure enough. But seldom do we take a similar look at the indispensable ingredients for positive time with our loved ones.
You may want to add some additional items to this recipe, but here are 4 ingredients I believe are vital to holiday happiness:
- LOVE. People have many different definitions of love, of course. One of the most accurate definitions is “seeking the highest good of other people, even at your own expense.” This sets the standard pretty high, doesn’t it? Love isn’t just a warm feeling, but rather a choice to give away part of your life to others.
The holidays usually provide a real test of whether your love is unconditional or merely reciprocal. Reciprocal love means loving someone back who has already shown love to you. That should be pretty easy! Someone send you a greeting card, so you send them one back.
However, the test of unconditional loves comes when some of the people you’re celebrating the holidays with have hurt you during the year. Can you forgive and keep loving them? Or will your attitude be icy and callous when you get together?
- JOY. I am well aware of all the WORK involved in putting together a Thanksgiving meal—both in the preparation and in the cleanup. But hopefully the work can be joy-filled work, complete with some frivolity and outbursts and laughter. The Bible says a “merry heart” is like medicine for the soul (Proverbs 17:22). A person who cultivates that kind of joyful heart will have a “continual feast”—never needing to wait for a special holiday to celebrate (Proverbs 15:15).
But let’s be honest: Sometimes the holidays give us special reasons to be sad rather than joyful: the death of a loved one, a marriage breakup, medical concerns, or family members who now live far away. However, that is even MORE reason why it’s so important to tap into God’s supernatural joy, enabling us to dispel any grief or sorrow with a spirit of gratitude and praise.
- PEACE. Who wouldn’t like drama-free holidays this year? Yet, since people are involved, you can pretty much bet there will be some measure of drama. The question, then, isn’t whether you’ll be surrounded by some drama at times (you surely WILL be!). The question is whether you will be able to maintain your own peaceful heart, even while many things are swirling frantically around you. If you’re struggling with this, I recommend the prescription found in Isaiah 26:3: “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Keep your heart set on Jesus!
- PATIENCE. Lots of things can conspire to test your patience during the holidays. Kids misbehave. People show up late. Turkeys take longer than expected to bake. Husbands seem more intent on watching the football games than helping with the preparations and cleanup.
Since there’s a high probably that your patience will be tested, you might as well take a deep breath and realize there’s no big hurry, after all. And it’s not worth losing your cool just to put someone else in their place (see Luke 10:38:42 if you don’t believe me).
Perhaps you’ve noticed that these 4 vital ingredients are also the first 4 components of “the fruit of the Spirit” described by Paul in Galatians 5:22-23. I point this out as a word of encouragement. For even if you aren’t feeling much love, joy, peace, and patience so far, God offers you an infinite source for finding more. The Christian life is meant to be a supernatural life, and God’s Spirit can fill you will all the missing ingredients you need for a happy holiday season.
Let me leave you with this paraphrase of Galatians 5:22-23 in The Message:
What happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
Friend, I pray you have a Spirit-filled Thanksgiving this year. When that happens, your day will be full of love, joy, peace, and patience. What a great new holiday tradition!