Growing up my extended family would always get together at my grandparent’s house on Christmas Eve. We would spend all day together eating lots of food (apparently my grandma thought we starved the other 364 days of the year), play games, and enjoy each others company. There was always the routine visit from Santa (who has really slimmed down and got some face lifts in recent years). We had traditions that were special to our family, we had the kid table and the big kid table, we had the yearly fight over Grandma’s fried shrimp. It was one of my favorite days of the year. After Thanksgiving, I would begin counting down the days til Christmas Eve. I have so many good and hilarious memories from Christmas Eves. One year my family was playing a highly competitive game of Catch Phrase. With each pass of the game people were getting louder and louder, until it reached the point that we were all just yelling (not in anger, but just got that loud). My grandma walked in and asked, “Do you have to talk so loud to play this game?” Immediately we all turned to her and yelled (again not in anger), “YES!” and then all busted out laughing at the shock on her face. I could recount all the crazy things that have happened on a Christmas Eve but it would take way too long. It used to be one of my favorite days of the year…
I am not mistakenly using the past tense. What once was something I looked forward to so much has become something I dread. I no longer look forward to Christmas Eve, and it kills me to say that. Things have happened in my family (which I’m not going to go into detail) and my family fell apart. It isn’t just one instance or one thing, and I’m not here to place blame or be angry, but the past few years I’ve watched my family become almost non-existent. And it sucks. There is really no other way to put it, it just sucks. I’ve been through a roller coaster of emotions the past few years over it. I’ve been angry, upset, apathetic, hopeful, excited, let down, stressed, just to name a few. A few years ago I didn’t go to my grandparent’s for Christmas Eve. It really upset me to make the decision I had to make, but I felt like it was the right one. I wrote a poem about it, and thought it might be worth sharing. I don’t normally go into the meanings of my poems, but I’ll make an exception here.
Seven times Seventy
It’s Christmastime again, this year I didn’t want to start any new traditions
But I don’t think I’ve been given a choice
Together we have proudly stood as one, so inseparable
Until our pride tore us apart
It’s so selfish to think this only impacts you
That you will be the only one suffering
Soon it will be the day we celebrate our Savior’s birth
When he came to set us free and forgive us all
When he gave up perfection to become imperfection
And if he is in your heart then I know he is begging you to let this go
Because it’s a shame I have to miss it all
All the smiles, all the laughs, all the memories
And have to swap them for ones I’d rather not have
Is this my present this year
I’ll open it with a fake smile and pretend it will do
Thinking to myself maybe next year I’ll get something better
When it all boils down, when you look at all the mistakes that have been made, all the ways people have been wronged, there is really only one thing that is keeping my family apart: unforgiveness. There is no way around it. People have been hurt, people have been wronged, and people are holding onto it. Unforgiveness is a beast that produces nasty results.
Ephesians 4:32 says, “Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Luke 17:3-4 says, “If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive. 4 Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.” Matt 6:14-15 says, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
I think the Bible is pretty clear on forgiveness. I also think we like to ignore what the Bible says about it. If you really read that verse from Matthew it is pretty hard to swallow. If we don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive us. You don’t hear that preached a lot on Sunday mornings. There are so many consequences to not forgiving people. Not only does it hurt them, but we hurt ourselves. It’s like pulling the pin on a grenade when you are trapped in a bunker full of people, it isn’t going to end well for anyone.
Forgiveness is still not an easy thing. One thing that helps me is to put it into perspective, to take a look at myself. Without putting much thought to it, I can come up with a list of things I have done that have hurt other people. I can think of a lot of selfish things I’ve done at others expense, how I’ve been mean or rude, how I’ve been prideful. I can think of the lies I’ve told, the things I’ve stole, the ways I’ve led people down wrong paths. I’m not anywhere near perfect. So who I am to not forgive someone else for what they have done to me, like I haven’t done the same things.
Then I look at Jesus. Jesus had everything He could ever want. And He gave it all up to take on human form so that He could die on a cross for me. Philippians 2:6-8 says,
6 Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
8 he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
He did that for me. The person that is not anywhere near perfect. The person who has wronged so many people in his life. The person who has wronged God in so many ways. Jesus didn’t care about any of that. He loved me so much that He gave up everything to say He forgave me. He gave up everything to make it right again.
How much are you willing to give up to make things right again? It’s time to let go of those hurts and to love. It’s time to admit we have all fallen short and to help pick each other back up. I can’t think of a better time to start then in the Christmas season. As we beginning to celebrate the birth of our Savior, let’s not forget why He did it. He did it to forgive us. He did it to show His love for us. Let’s take this season and make it a season to forgive people, make it a season where we show people we love them no matter how they’ve hurt us. Let’s take this season and live it like Jesus would.
until next time…