When it came to Christmas, meekness was never high on my list. Maybe I'd thought about it in relation to the Christmas story – the baby Jesus, born in the humblest of circumstances. But as for the qualities I thought about expressing during the holiday season, I guess I was more focused on love and joy and generosity.
Until this year, when I figured out what I'd been missing.
I was sorting through my Christmas music, trying to figure out what might work for a couple of holiday gigs I had on the calendar. That's when the meekness thing hit me. Because I read these words from the last verse of one of my Christmas favorites, "O Little Town of Bethlehem":
No ear may hear his coming, But in this world of sin, Where meekness will receive him, still The dear Christ enters in.
(Phillips Brooks, "Christian Science Hymnal," No. 222)
I'd sung the hymn dozens of times, but I'd never paid attention to its message of meekness. Yet, what it said to me this year was that meekness was central to Christmas because only great humility could usher in such a pure message of love and salvation. It said that meekness had allowed the wise men and shepherds to respond to the light that led them to the Christ.
And it reminded me that participating in Christmas – yes, even 2,000 years later – requires a humble willingness to hear what God is saying. Especially in those moments when what God is saying seems difficult to believe because the circumstances in which we find ourselves offer a direct contradiction.
To me, Jesus' life exemplified this kind of humble listening. It didn't matter what came his way – a terrible storm, an angry mob, a woman who'd been gravely ill for most of her life. Jesus never seemed impressed or overwhelmed by what he encountered. In fact, his conviction of God's love for each of His children helped everyone feel the presence of the Christ. And the result was healing.
I discovered this for myself a week or two after I'd first started focusing on meekness. Ever since I'd run across that hymn, I'd made it a practice to remind myself – whenever I encountered a situation that bothered me – that all I needed was meekness. That I could be humble enough to hear what God was saying. And that this pure message of love, or the Christ, was enough to break through the darkness.
But the test came when a co-worker seemed intent on sabotaging a project that I deeply cared about. I was furious for many reasons, but my real sorrow was for the project. I just wanted it to be as good as it could be.
And that, unfortunately, led to lots of self-righteousness on my part – which didn't leave much room for meekness. In fact, when that line from the hymn came back to me in the middle of this mess, my first response was, "I know, I know. But it's just too hard."
The message, however, was persistent. So finally I did what I should have done first: I humbly turned to God and asked Him how He was seeing my co-worker. Here's what I heard: Well, I'm certainly not seeing him as an egotistical jerk.
Believe it or not, that defused the whole thing. I saw that I could only know this co-worker the way God knew Him. As the child of God. As good. I actually felt love for this individual wash over me. And later in the day, I got a message from him. There was an apology – and an offer to make things right.
This Christmas, I'm still celebrating with lots of love and joy and generosity. The difference is that with meekness in the mix, I can express those qualities more transparently and consistently. Because meekness keeps the Christ-presence in my heart – and not just at this time of year, but in every season.