Third Sunday in Advent
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
We are in the season of Advent, which is about waiting. What are we waiting for? Presents? Kindness? Thoughtfulness? What about gentleness? This may be the missing link in what many of us are waiting for this time of year. Maybe this is Christmas Spirit?
Today's reading from Philippians mentions letting "your gentleness be known to everyone." That got me thinking. How is gentleness different from kindness? I didn't look up the definitions, but here is my interpretation:
Gentleness is kindness with something more; another level. Being gentle implies kindness and compassion but it almost requires touch. This closeness is critical to being gentle. Without it you are just being nice. Not that there is anything wrong with being nice. It just isn't the best we have to offer when it comes to human interaction. The helping hand of caring for a sick or elderly relative, caressing a new grandchild, or caring for a new kitten – we all need kindness in our lives. Whether it was our mother's when we were sick, the support of a friend after the loss of a loved one or other tragedy, we all need gentleness. These human sources of gentleness are easy for us to latch onto. They are tangible and comfort us. There is a certain physicality to gentleness that many people may not have anymore, and it's something that can't be replaced by electronic greeting cards or Facetime.
Kindness always makes us feel good, and it will make the other person feel that someone cares. Gentleness implies a deeper connection with what is important to the person and a vulnerability in caring for someone else. Don't get me wrong, it is important to be kind. Gentleness just seems to be more intimate. It requires more effort.
God's gentleness is just as tender, but we often forget to trust it or maybe we are just too busy to be open to it. God's gentleness comes in unexpected ways. It could be the end of suffering, the comfort of scripture in hard times. Regardless, it is always there whether we ask for it or not.
Maybe there is a reason we celebrate the coming of a child every Christmas, to remind us about gentleness not just kindness. I think it's time we stop waiting for gentleness. Stop worrying about catching a cold from someone because you touched them or that it might take too long. I am challenging myself to be more gentle with those I know and love, as well as strangers. To do more than the bare minimum to help someone and think about how they need me – beyond simple tasks or words.
Devotional author: Chris Arends, Member, NorthPark Presbyterian Church