When I grew up, at Christmastime baby Jesus slept in a Quaker® oatmeal box. It was a tradition my Mom started. On Thanksgiving Day my sister and I would make oatmeal cookies, then we would decorate them. Laying the cylinder-shaped oatmeal box on its side, my Mom would cut the top half off to make a manger. Meanwhile Kathy and I would tear strips of newspaper to make play “hay.” During the advent season any kind deed that was done resulted in one strip of paper being added to the manger. The more paper, the softer it was for baby Jesus, who arrived at Christmas. We loved the idea of preparing Him a bed.

This tradition brings into focus many lessons on kindness from the Bible. We’re told to let our good deeds shine out for all to see (Matthew 5:16). Through kindness we resemble Christ.

As an imperfect person stressed at Christmas, I can be impatient. One of my favorite verses after I’ve raised my voice or snapped in frustration is 1 Peter 4:8: “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.” Know that while we are not called to flawless perfection, we are called to unconditional love and to ask for forgiveness when we fall short.

Think about experiences in your life. A sorrowful heart is one that seeks to make the wrong right. I find that doing something kind can be an outward expression of an inward contrition. When someone confesses their shortcoming and seeks to mend the damage, it’s difficult to stay angry, isn’t it? Conversely, when someone does nothing to show their remorse and keeps hurting others, I find that forgiving is harder.

Just as my mother sought to teach kindness by encouraging us to put newspaper strips in an oatmeal box manger, you too can teach others by your example. From Matthew 25:40 we know that good deeds don’t go unnoticed by our heavenly Father, who will reward us: “‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’” The Christmas season is particularly hectic and growing weary is inevitable. Give yourself permission to spend time with your Father to rest and refuel. Then you and I can resume all those traditions, like oatmeal box mangers, that teach kindness.

An oatmeal box, baby Jesus, and kindness

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