Oh joy! The Christmas season is upon us!
Gleefully we buy and wrap presents for everyone on our shortlist and ignore those on, you know, that other list! No sugar plums dancing in our heads because they are too filled with anger and resentments we revisit every year.
Instead of living in hopeful expectation of the coming of a Savior, we hope against hope that the one we hate so deeply would have dropped dead before we have to sit across from them at Christmas dinner yet again. In one breath, we thank God for sending his beloved Son to reveal his deep and abiding love for us, while we begrudge his creation of that so-and-so who makes our life a living hell.
Attempts to sing any Christmas song other than “Grandma (or my brother or former friend) Got Run Over by a Reindeer” is just not going to happen. And you swear that if you hear “Fa La La” one more time you’re going to punch someone!
Christmas dredges up “stuff” that we try all year long to ignore. What is it about this season that not only brings out the best but, sadly, the worst in us? I don’t know for sure, but I believe it was intentional on God’s part. (He’s pretty clever that way.) Think about it. Other times of the year can trigger bad feelings in so many of our relationships. But, Christmas just seems to profoundly manifest our deepest feeling. Why?
What do you think is most important to God? Relationships, right? He is always about the business of teaching us how important they are: his relationship with us and ours with him and our relationships with each other. Every Christmas is supposed to remind us of a Divine Love that had to come to earth incarnated as the child Jesus so we could touch and feel it for ourselves. Whoa, that’s way too scary, so we just go to church instead. That’s easier and less demanding. Then we can hang onto our perceived righteous anger because we don’t want to let them off the hook, “I hope your Christmas sucks!”
And so, again, the need for forgiveness is upon us. Like that stupid elf on the shelf! Every morning you get up knowing it’s there somewhere, watching your every move. It is not possible to be in relationship with others without the need for forgiveness at some point in our lives. Everyone screws up. Everyone! All of us, at some time in our lives, will be called upon to forgive or to ask for forgiveness – usually both and usually often.
Of course, we can deceive ourselves into believing that we did that already. So, how will you know if you have? If the result of your forgiving or being forgiven has mended and restored that relationship you struggled in then let me throw out an AMEN AND ALLALUAHA!!! However, you will be tested again and again if it has not been, especially if that person slips again.
Forgiveness will not change the past. Period. It may not make the present more bearable or the future more hopeful if the other person refuses to accept or offer forgiveness. That’s when we can so easily revert to our stance of hating them all over again.
But forgiveness is a must, no matter the outcome, no matter the response of the other person. Usually, we have to get to Easter to be reminded of Jesus’ last words on the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Come on, we’re just as guilty as anyone else of doing something stupid and unforgivable. It’s human nature. That’s why God has to forgive us over and over again. I suppose he does roll his eyes and smack his forehead while asking the proverbial question, “What were you thinking?!”
But he still forgives because he is well aware of our incessant and unremitting screw-ups. He accepts all our foils if he knows we are doing our best. He loves us despite ourselves. I’m not sure how we can think for one moment that we can get away with giving anyone else grief for their sinfulness. Perhaps we all need to be reminded of the following scripture – A LOT!
Matthew 18:21-19:1 (loose translation), “Peter, all smug and sure of himself, asked the Lord how many times he is expected to forgive the dimwits in his life. He picked a number out of the air that he thought Jesus would agree to. How about seven? But Jesus rebuked him, “NOPE, wanna try again?”
Oh boy, I feel a parable coming on. Jesus told Peter about the king who lined his servants up and demanded they settle their debts with him. All but one holdout did. He thought he could hedge his bets that the king would forgive him if he groveled enough, and amazingly he did.
In a sudden lapse of memory, the servant ran into a guy who owed him money and demanded it back just like the king. The other guy begged him to give him more time. But, unlike the king, he refused and threw him into jail. The king got wind of it – oops, busted. He rescinded the jerk’s forgiven debt and threw him in jail too. There, take that, moron!
So, what about you? Is there a relationship you need to mend this Christmas? I believe the most challenging struggle we have is when we are in a close relationship with someone, and we can’t avoid it. The anger or hurt is always before us; if their attitude is indifference, we struggle even more. Our hurts are like open sores that never heal. So, instead of seeing the good that person may do, we forever carry around our “Jerk Meter”. AHA! There she goes again! Great! –now I’ll be up all night again. Just me at my pity party with my “Jerk Meter.”
Perhaps a quote I am constantly reminded of may help you move toward forgiveness: “Forgiveness is giving up my right to hurt you the way you have hurt me.” (Author unknown). And here is an excellent blog about forgiveness: http://tinybuddha.com/blog/how-to-maintain-a-relationship-with-a-loved-one-who-has-hurt-you/
Finally, my prayer for everyone, especially those who harbor past hurts and pain, is that you will see the Love of God anew. A Love meant to be carried into a hurting and broken world by us. So, instead of just stepping in the church’s doors this Christmas, step into the heart of someone who’s broken and in need of love. You’ll probably find them sitting across from you at the dinner table.
Have a VERY BLESSED CHRISTMAS!