When I was in college, my favorite professor recommended PeaceMeal, a free email subscription to relational wisdom from Peacemaker Ministries. You’re going to receive a lot of email every day, he said. This one is worth it. 

I loved this professor because he would always illustrate his teaching with stories about himself and his family. When he recommended PeaceMeal , I signed up the next day.

He was right. It is worth it.

Today’s reading featured verses to memorize as we go into the many social gatherings of the holidays. This one nailed me:

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2, NIV).

Extended time with the people I love means extended opportunity for butting heads, particularly with those who are closest to me. In many of the words I have spoken lately to my husband, family and friends, I have been the exact opposite of this verse. I have been proud and harsh, impatient and angry.

This Christmas is exposing me. I have so much joy in the anticipation and celebration of Christ’s coming, the music, the liturgy, the gifts. At the same time, I am aware of great internal and relational stress, from the budgeting to the rushed quiet times to the close quarters with my loved ones.

I have not been living in peace with others because I am not at peace with God or with myself. Yet I can memorize the verse that nailed me without condemnation. I can memorize it with hope, as a prayer, for one simple reason: Jesus was born.

The angels called him the Prince of Peace, and He is. He is humble and gentle, patient, bearing with me in love.

He came in perfect humility, born in blood and pain into a barn full of smelly animals.

He is gentle as the lambs carried on the necks of the shepherds who came to stare at him with wide eyes .

He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. He forgives every sin and heals every disease.

May the fragrance of His mercy linger in our homes long after the scent of pine has gone.