I was doing some quick grocery shopping one recent Monday (yes, I was properly masked and had my sanitizer handy). As I parked my car, a lady who obviously just finished her shopping was transferring the purchases from her cart to her car. As I walked by she looked up and said, “Oh, hello. Isn’t the a beautiful day?
I, somewhat surprised, looked at her and said simply, “Yes it is. I hope the whole week is like this.” As I walked past her, I wished her well and proceeded to the store.
I was picking up some oranges and was messing with a plastic bag that wouldn’t open. A clerk who was loading apples into a display bin glanced up and then fixed his eyes on me. He asked, “Can I help you with that bag. They can be difficult sometimes.”
I managed to open the bag at that monument and thanked the man, who by now had walked around the display bin. He begun talking about how life has been impacted by COVID. After a few exchanges of mutual weariness with the inconveniences he went back to his packing apples and I moved on to the checkout .
As I wheeled my cart out, a couple, fellow senior citizens, walked out just behind me. The man looked over and said, “I sure can’t wait for this virus crisis to move on past us.” His wife asked me how I was handling these changes. I, at this point overwhelmed with all this friendliness, enjoyed sharing my perspective. Upon reaching my car, I simply said, “Blessings to you” and we parted.
I had unloaded my cart and had just closed the hatch when a shopper who had parked just next to my car came around toward me, and said, “I can take that cart back to the cart corral for you. I’ll be passing it on the way to the store.” I thanked her and let her take the cart.
WOW! Four times, in less than one hour! Four strangers striking up a conversation with me.
All the way home, I mulled over what had happened. I thought of what I was wearing—blue jeans, sweatshirt, brown jacket, and my hat. Nothing there would explain their behavior. Maybe if I had been wearing a blue Messiah name tag or even my Messiah ball cap, or if I had been wearing a blazer, with a dress shirt and one of my Scripture verse ties, maybe that could explain the situation. I even asked myself, is the end of the world, that God has made everyone kind and considerate.
Finally I just put off trying to figure it out, chalking it up to a series of pleasant coincidences.
I arrived back home, unpacked the groceries ,and I headed upstairs to change into some older clothing for my work outside. We have a large mirror in the dining room. As I passed that mirror, I looked and found the only logical explanation, the solution to the mysterious friendliness I had just experienced.
I was wearing, like I said, blue jeans and a sweatshirt, and a jacket. The sweatshirt was black, and my Tee-shirt was tight around my neck, with the top of it above the black sweatshirt. The shirt was white, so that I looked to be wearing a clerical collar, much like Pastor John or Pastor Dustin would wear.
I haven’t asked the pastors if they receive more smiles and experience easier conversation when they wear their clerical collar, but I suspect they would agree that people treat them differently at that time.
These people, most likely, felt comfortable being friendly to me because they perceived me as a Christian, a fellow Christian, even a leader in the Christian community. The barriers of distrust and suspicion that keep people apart were broken down when it became obvious we had a common ground—faith in the Savior, Jesus.
I thought about that for a while, and realized how it is easier to be friendly and kind to someone with whom we share an opinion or attitude about a specific political party, a community government issue, a social issue, a reverence for the Bible. In this day of uncertainty due to the COVID crisis, it’s even more difficult to be kind and friendly, sharing a bit of ourselves with strangers.
Enter—The Bible: God doesn’t expect us to show love just when it’s convenient or free of risks. His direction for us, according to Paul in Galatians 6:9 is: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” He simply says do good in all situations, showing our love and warmth to all, the entire community of humanity. He then adds, showing that love and warmth especially to those with whom we have that bond of common faith in Jesus Christ.
At this time of the year, one sees more smiles and receives friendly greetings. Like Rosemary Clooney sang: “…Children laughing, people passing; Meeting smile after smile. And on every street corner you hear Silver Bells.” Even those who do not believe in the very reason for Christmas are generally more prone to get caught up in the joy of the season.
All this joy and happiness is humanity’s response to God’s Son having been born of a woman to be able to live that life of perfection that God gave Adam and Eve in Eden. After sin entered the world and destroyed the perfect relationship between God and mankind, Jesus came to restore that life of total and complete joy and to give us hope of eternity with Him.
As we are in the last month of 2020 and are entering a New Year, let us first give thanks that God always has been with us and will continue to be with us. We have experienced hardships, strife, sadness, the likes of which haven’t been experienced by many generations. But through it all God has been beside us shoring us up when we needed help and giving us comfort in our strife and sadness.
Let us then, close the door on this year, looking forward with hope to the New Year and keeping our trust and hope in salvation by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ.
Happy Birthday, Jesus. Merry Christmas to all.