Letting go of the soapbox

It all started last week when I was coming out of the supermarket parking lot, onto a street with road construction.  The light turned yellow and another oncoming car was approaching. My first instinct was to gun it and make my left turn.  My second instinct was to slow down and allow the other car through, well, because it’s Christmas.

Actually, it’s Advent. But that’s not the point I’m getting at right now.

We often feel a little more charitable this time of year.  We will give out our spare change, hold the door for others, etc. all in the spirit of the season.  For those of us in clergy/leadership positions, we will speak about hope, peace, joy and love. We will ask our congregants to model this in their daily lives.

But we also will use these seasons to preach out.  We will speak out about commercialization, consumerism, the “real” meaning of Christmas, and the inclusion of other holidays.  We will speak out for the poor, the hungry, the oppressed, the marginalized, the homeless.

All of these are good things, but they can quickly turn into soapboxes, and often soapboxes=negative campaigning.

After coming through the election season we just faced, I realized I have had it up to here with negativity.  I feel it not only in the emotions of anger, bitterness and frustration, but I feel it in my very bones and muscles. Negativity has worn me out.

I’m tired of standing on the soapbox preaching against things.  Instead, as I approach the halfway point in Advent, I’d like to turn to encouragement, trust, hope, love, peace and joy—all those things that are traditionally part of the Advent season, all those things we often preach but don’t even practice in our preaching.  Perhaps we get a little too John the Baptist from the pulpit at this time of year instead of being more like Mary and Elizabeth.  Not to create a masculine/feminine dichotomy, but rather, singing and praising the wonders of God rather than calling those who aren’t like me “You brood of vipers” is a little more appealing, and a little more enjoyable (although I do love me some good John the Baptist moments) after this last election cycle.

So as we continue to prepare for Christmas, maybe this year, let’s rant less about consumerism and say more about how to celebrate the coming of Christ into our lives in a new way that doesn’t require consumption.  Let’s find ways of encouraging and building up one another rather than ranting soapbox-style about everything we perceive as Not From Christ.

This isn’t to say there isn’t a time and place to get angry. Our Savior didn’t turn the tables over for nothing. John the Baptist had a good reason to get angry.  But we’ve had four years of anger and bitterness in this last election cycle, and the anger and bitterness is still spilling over into the political discourse right now over the fiscal cliff.  Maybe it’s just time to try a different approach, at least for a while, to take a breather.  For we remember the same Jesus who before the cross said “Woe unto thee,” and after the cross said, “Peace be with you.”  There is a time and season for righteous anger.  There is also a time and season for encouragement and joy in what God has done and is doing.  Maybe it’s time to let go of our soapboxes, at least for a while, and give in to hope, peace, joy and love.