By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
"Oh my gosh, we could have been twins today!" The barista at my coffee was so excited to notice my Star Trek shirt peeking out from my rain jacket today. She was dressed as Belle from Beauty and the Beast, but apparently had simply been able to find her Trekkie outfit. It's fun finding out your friends or people you frequently interact with (my baristas see me a lot) have a common interest. Maybe you are both transplants with a love for the same sports team or college. Perhaps you're both die hard fans of a show or play. Maybe you have both been to concerts of the same beloved musician or collect the same things.
It's common for Star Trek or any one of a hundred niche interests from sci-fi to sewing, hunting or knitting, languages and travel. We seek common ground. Sometimes, that's faith. I've been amazed sometimes to see servers light up when we ask to pray for them and tell me about their church and family. I once befriended someone on a flight over discussing campus ministry and when we invited a third stranger to join us for dinner so he could get a table and make his flight, we soon discovered he was a pastor in Africa back home. Sometimes, people know our faith by our stories, but Jesus tells us that we can and should be known by something else... our love.
We are entering the "holiday season," a secular term for the months of shopping leading to Christmas, one of the major high holidays of our faith tradition. It tends to be busier, colder, darker, and more stressful. It's easy to go out to eat between the busyness and forget that it's just as stressful for the retail workers on minimum wage and the servers working off of tips. They, too, are rushing to buy gifts and make Christmas special in their gatherings, which may be brief or scheduled for alternate days so they can work the holidays. When we interact with folks in these stressful jobs, we have an opportunity to show them who and whose we are. Not by our stories, but by our love.
It may look like patience as they search for a size or we wait in line. It may look like gratitude above and beyond and words of affirmation that we value them as a person. It may look like forgiveness when they are short tempered or not as cheerful or attentive as we hope or forget part of our order. And it probably looks like a big tip. Even if the service was just ok, or maybe especially if it wasn't ok. And it definitely looks like saying, "and to you too," whether they say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. We love and serve someone who came to us not because we deserved it but to show us the fullness of God's love and a better way to live in peace and hope and be joyful. Jesus calls us to be known as his by our love. Make it a goal to be recognized this holiday season as one of his. Often.