Your best Christmas ever for-giving

The Rev. Cary Slater

The Rev. Cary Slater

As you do your online Christmas shopping, you may notice all the mini-articles about surviving the holidays. There’s shopping survival guides and avoiding credit card debt guides and even holiday beauty survival guides. What caught my attention this year is the number of surviving people guides for this time of “peace and joy.” How not to wreck your work relationships at the office holiday party. How to survive the trip to grandma’s house.

I also came across a quote from a pastor/author who describes himself as a positive thinker. He said, “Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”

It made me wonder if he lives with actual people, or is locked in a garage writing books in Wyoming. Because for so many people I talk to, Christmas is when old, ugly wounds are exposed again, and family gatherings don’t feel very soft.

Family is an intended gift of God for our security, companionship and nurture: nurture in the experience of God’s love and grace. God has a high vision and purpose for families. But where there is the possibility for the greatest beauty, its absence can be particularly ugly.

May this Christmas be your best ever for-giving. The gift you can give this Christmas that will stand above all other possibilities is the forgiveness that brings healing to relationships. There is no magic wand — it’s called grace — and it’s often a difficult choice.

In your head, before Christmas family gatherings, do you run through the scenarios of where potential hurt lies? Aunt Betty, who has no filter, saying whatever pops into her head. The sibling who seems to choose to be oblivious to the trail of pain left behind him.

Christmas is the celebration of a Savior — it is celebration of God’s action to forgive the harm we have done to our relationship with him, to bridge the estrangement from God created by our walking away from him.

Can we truly celebrate Christmas, the peace and joy which flow from reconciliation, with family members and friends from whom we remain estranged? Whom we have not forgiven, with our walls firmly in place? We are together in the same room but not in the same place

We can choose to forgive when we are hurt. We “bear with each other and forgive one another if any of us has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

How has God forgiven me? Completely undeservedly. It is the pure grace of God — his kindness extended to me even though I am unworthy of it. Now I am encouraged to make the same choice, to extend forgiveness by grace, kindness to those unworthy of it.

Jesus encouraged a step even beyond forgiveness, the choice to bless. “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

Jesus promises that the reward will be great in the situations where the grace and forgiveness you extend is most undeserved. The toughest situations have the greatest potential for reward because the most has been forgiven. He promises strength to experience that promise.

Where is the reward potential greatest for you this Christmas? With whom can you display the beauty of forgiveness which brings true peace and joy?

Covenant Church of Easton is at One Sport Hill Road, Easton, just off the Merritt Park at exit 46. Cary Slater is senior pastor. Reach him at [email protected] or 203-371-8335.

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