The holidays are a fantastic time to focus on all we have to be grateful for, but sometimes there’s a great big elephant in the room.
Becky Kiser, founder of Sacred Holidays and the author of a new book by the same name, compared healthy holiday preparation to the safety regulations flight attendants give passengers before takeoff.
“I think the approach so many of us take is it’s all about others, we’re trying to keep parents happy, kids happy and the in-laws happy, friends happy,” she told Faithwire. “It’s all about taking these oxygen masks and putting life onto everyone else, and in turn, we’re deflated.”
Just as flight attendants tell passengers in an emergency situation that they should put their own oxygen masks on before turning to help those around them, Kiser said Christians need to “put our oxygen masks on first.”
Kiser’s point is it’s important to have our own spiritual houses in order, to have our priorities straight and to manage expectations going into the holiday season, when it’s all but guaranteed we’ll run into a few headaches and hiccups along the way.
Christians, the author said, should look to Scripture. Kiser pointed to James 1:19, which reads, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
In today’s political climate and divisive culture, it’s easy to talk. In fact, we all pretty much feel entitled to talk, text and tweet our opinions all day long, most of the time without any regard for where it’s going or who might hear it.
But the holidays just aren’t a good time for those debates. They are, though, a good time for learning and listening.
“We are to be quick to listen,” Kiser explained. “So if people want to talk about politics, then be quick to listen to their side. … If you’re a very strong conservative Republican, why don’t you listen to the thoughts of those who are very strong liberal Democrats?”
She added, “You’re probably not going to convince each other of the other way, but if you’re quick to listen, you might appreciate one another’s perspective a little bit better.”
It’s OK to, as Kiser said, “embrace the tension.” There’s nothing in Scripture that says God doesn’t meet us in tense situations. There is, however, “no gray area in our call and command to love one another.”
So how can we prepare ourselves to create conversation instead of chaos this year?
Before every major holiday, Kiser said she creates a list of how she can expect each of her family members to behave and prays over each gathering, asking God to give her a “realistic expectation” of how the event will go.
“I can go into it expecting that they might behave that way, because they always have, not feel defeated or defensive,” she said, “and instead bring in my faith and ask [God] to do a miracle in my family, that it can be peaceful.”
And for those wrestling with deep emotional wounds — maybe from a divisive discussion in years past or something even more traumatic — Kiser said it’s important not to “shove it down” and pretend it’s not there.
The “Sacred Holidays” author said it’s important to acknowledge those wounds by taking them to the Lord in prayer and then addressing conflict the way the Bible instructs us in Matthew 18:15-20.
“For some reason, we’ve given ourselves an asterisk that’s not in Scripture by calling our family excluded from the rules, like, it’s OK to gossip about our family because they’re family or it’s OK to gossip to our family because they’re family,” Kiser said. “Jesus never gave us that exception to the Scripture.”
One of the best ways to avoid conflict and embrace healthy habits during the holidays is to remember why we’re gathered together. During Thanksgiving, it’s important to keep gratitude at the center of the celebration.
Kiser encouraged families to find a time during their Thanksgiving traditions to put the elephant out of the room and take a few minutes to go around the table and share what they’re grateful for this holiday season.