Let us take time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. It is not about how many presents we receive. It is not about having the latest Smart Phone or a big screen TV that will put you in debt.. It is about rejoicing in the gift of Christ’s life for us, that baby in a manger who grew up to guide people to have hope in the darkness of their lives. This hope given to us over 2,000 years ago is as relevant now as it was then. With all the horrid news of people killed by those filled with hate, we so much need to love each other. Only by continuing to love each other can we conquer all the hate in this world which seeks to consume us, to have us live in a perpetual state of fear.
Love is the gift we can give each other that has no price tag. It’s value cannot be quantified and scientifically analyzed. It is the gift that lies in each one of us ready to be received and unwrapped by its grateful recipient.
This Christmas as we all have a much-needed break from the stress of our lives take time for loving each other. Be kind and patient with one another. Extend the hand of outstretched love to that stranger you see looking lonely, worn, and unloved.
Be willing to sacrifice your private time at Christmas with your spouse or family where you see those who need the gift of your love. Need knows know season. It is there in every lonely heart who asks, “Will you love me?” It is there in every prayer of those working with diligence and conviction to escape their unrelenting poverty. It is there in every searching heart who wonders if you will love them through their pain. It is there in all those who have lost loved ones and need to have healing love around them. In a coffee shared or inviting that hurting person to our Christmas, we give a gift of caring that lives on in our hearts and the lives of those who receive it..
Perhaps, this is also a time when forgiveness should happen. That is my experience. There is a call in my heart to forgive those who have hurt me in thought, word and deed, to let go of my anger towards them. I know. It is easier said than done. Could I respectfully suggest that the journey begins with our willingness to forgive?
For some the process of forgiving will be short while for others it will take many years. Perhaps, if we also consider that it is a gift of love we give ourselves that journey will be made easier to deal with.
Whether you accept Christ as divine or not, He died to offer a life larger and more beautiful than searching hearts could have themselves. He issues the challenge to us to forgive. Jesus said, ” Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32, NASB). I like how Barne’s Note’s describe what our forgiveness should look like.
3) there is no danger of carrying it too far. Let the rule be observed, “As God has forgiven you, so do you forgive others.” Let a man recollect his own sins and follies; let him look over his life, and see how often he has offended God; let him remember that all has been forgiven; and then, fresh with this feeling, let him go and meet an offending brother, and say, “My brother, I forgive you. I do it frankly, fully, wholly. So Christ has forgiven me; so I forgive you. The offence shall be no more remembered. It shall not be referred to in our contact to harrow up your feelings; it shall not diminish my love for you; it shall not prevent my uniting with you in doing good. Christ treats me, a poor sinner, as a friend; and so I will treat you.
When I was a missionary in South Korea I learned that Koreans give a gift with two hands. To give a gift with one hand or to receive it with one hand is an insult. That is how our forgiveness must be given, not with one hand extended but both, saying, “I forgive you.”
Pope John Paul II could have chosen not to forgive his assassin. Instead, he led by example in visiting the prisoner, extending both of his arms in true forgiveness. The picture below says it all.
Whatever Mehmet Ali Agca’s motives were for trying to kill Pope John Paul II, what cannot be disputed is the genuineness of the Pope’s forgiveness. He did this as an act of love, the kind of love that is real forgiving love. It is love that gives seeking nothing in return. it is love that gives freely from a heart that is open and vulnerable. Pope John Paul II’s forgiveness is an example for all of us as we live out our lives.
Please call that friend, family member or colleague who you had a disagreement with. Give up your right to be right. As a wise counsellor advised me when I stood on my right to be right concerning an argument with my wife, Karen,”Kevin, sometimes you have to be the man.”
Recently, that challenge happened with a member of my own family. I do not call her for several weeks. I insist on my right to be right about a hurtful thing she said. The call to my heart is clear. I must forgive. I call her. I tell her I love her. The relationship is not healed but it is better than it was.
This Christmas reach out to all who need you. Be willing to receive love from others. It is the gift that is always there to give not just at Christmas but rather 365 days a year.