Turns out I’m not a city girl. I lived in Boston for a year while in college. Although Downtown Bostoncity-life was fun and exciting, I drove white-knuckled, swerving around double-parked cars, oncoming trains, and jaywalking pedestrians. I lugged grocery bags six blocks because it was easier to do that than to find a parking space. I packed into a tight commuter-rail car amid a plethora of unpleasant smells. I’m ashamed to say it, but, I knew it was time to move back to the burbs when I began to see people as objects in my way instead of as individuals.

Animal Behaviorist, John B Calhoun, created a utopian society for rats.  Within his barn in Maryland, he constructed the ideal environment for rats to live. No disease, no natural predators. He provided them with food and even kept their pen at a balmy climate. At first, the rats thrived. They congregated together at food distribution and bred rapidly, but then overcrowding began. In the stress of limited space, it didn’t take long before the rats became aggressive and even ate each other.

Now, we are not rats. I’m not worried about cannibalism becoming a problem in cities, but I’ll never forget the horror of people being trampled for a black Friday deal. As Christmas approaches and the stress of buying presents, mailing out cards, and making a dish to pass for the next party overwhelms us, we can become too frazzled. We can lose the purpose of this wonderful season, and begin to see people as a task to check off our list.

John Hambrick, author of Move Toward the Mess, said, “You know you’re too busy when messy people become a problem and not an opportunity.” People are not barriers, they’re not boxes to be checked, or hurdles to be jumped. We (myself Love ornamentincluded) need to take a breath and remember God has placed these people into our lives for a reason. God loves them, and Jesus died for them. So when you’re looking at that Christmas party invite and creatively thinking of an excuse to turn it down, consider if God has a reason for you to attend. As you place stamps on your Christmas cards, take a moment to pray for that family. As you order gifts or bake cookies, ponder who else you might have the ability to unexpectedly bless. You’ll be blessed in return. Don’t just survive Christmas. Live Christmas with purpose.

 And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

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