CHRISTMAS HANDS US THE POTENTIAL FOR FORGIVENESS
By Coach Lorne McAlister
“Joy to the world, the Lord is come!”
“Woe to my world, my relatives are coming.”
Christmas seems to be one or the other.
Nothing hi-jacks the fun and festivity of Christmas like the stress and mess of family history that is locked in with the bitterness of unforgiveness. The pull and pleasure Christmas has for some folks is eclipsed by the pain and the push away for other families. The clash, the rash, the smash, like hard old paint in a brush, has turned the season into a wasteland of “I-won’t-be-home-for- Christmas. You-can-count-on-me… not being there.”
Christmas hands us the potential to process life with forgiveness.
There is enough truth in the teaching and power in the person of Jesus for us to opt in for the freshness of forgiveness. Forgiveness opens the door for a re-think, a re-start, a return, a reunion.
I was walking around the halls of The Strathcona County Office in Sherwood Park, Alberta, waiting for the 2 o’clock start of the public portion of the Council meeting. It was Tuesday, December 14. I would be giving the invocation prayer. I’d written it out and rehearsed it. I’d been asking for help with hope. People become councilors because they hope to make a difference. That hope gets lasered and tasered away with the complexities and costs of governance.
As I walked and waited, I locked in on the two life-zones that hang us up and hold us hostage. We get stuck with our un-changeable past. We get spooked by our un-knowable future.
· For our un-changeable past we need forgiveness.
· For our un-knowable future we need hope.
Forgiveness is a gift we give to ourselves. It’s the light, the life, the love we deliberately choose to live in.
Engraved in the memorial to Martin Luther King in Washington, DC is this statement:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hatred cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
We cannot force forgiveness. We can’t compel anyone to soften their heart, examine their faults, or modify their judgments of us. We have to wait until they want to. Initiating forgiveness only opens the door so that forgiveness can happen.
Forgiveness is difficult because we stay stuck in the story we’ve told ourselves about what happened. As long as we maintain the picture of others as the villains and of ourselves as the virtuous, we feel morally justified in our anger or frustrations. Only forgiveness frees us from the cloud of our self-justifying, pain-protecting stories. Only forgiveness allows us to re-examine the views others have of us.
Christmas hands us the potential to forgive.
· Forgive, but don’t try to rush others to forgive.
· Forgive and as you do, acknowledge others valid pain.
· Forgive and affirm the part of their story that you can agree with.
· Forgive and realize the hurt others legitimately feel.
· Forgive and gently invite them to reconsider their response.
· Forgive and then release others to the freedom of their chosen response.
Christmas hands us the potential for forgiveness.
Forgiveness is the best gift we give ourselves and others.