Christmas is more than just giving and receiving gifts. If that’s all it is then it’s really just a transaction between people and is no different than when you go to a store to purchase food or other items. Sadly, I see it becoming more and more of getting stuff, eating cookies and candies, and laying around watching shows and football. In this politically correct culture I think we’ve lost our way.
For thousands of years Christmas was a time of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and his birth in a lowly manger in Bethlehem. For years there was a solemnness and awe of this miracle. There was not only an acceptance of this belief, but it has been a cornerstone of our society. Now the United States and frankly the world is similar to ourselves, there are many good things in us, but there are also many broken things too. The same holds true with societies that kill the unborn, have rampant homelessness, crime is at an all-time high and not a week goes by where there aren’t policemen shot or shootings in businesses or in the streets of random people.
As society has become more “correct” we’ve lost the standard and standards by which we live. Imagine a house that sits on shifting sand or a traffic light that randomly rotates between 10 different lights without warning. You see the reality is that you can’t have multiple standards, since that turns into no standard at all!
What Can We Do Then?
The standard of giving was set by a Holy God coming down to Earth, to be born of a virgin, to show us the way we should live, then to die on a cross to save us from our sins. That in a nutshell IS Christmas and that is the standard by which we should live. Is giving wrong, no and that’s evidenced by this true meaning of Christmas. When giving is selfish and self-centered and simply about getting gifts and giving them, so others will appreciate us and there is no understanding of the sacrifice and even more so of those around us less fortunate, it’s then that Christmas becomes just another set of transactions.
We should love and appreciate our families and all that they mean to us. We should give to one another out of selflessness, but we should also take a step back and see those around us and in our neighborhoods and towns that have nothing and no one. We should turn the gifts we’ve received this year of health, wealth, love and opportunities and we should share them with those who don’t have them. We should leave our warm houses with huge amounts of food and treats and presents and we should seek out those that don’t have them and without a fanfare, we should give to them without need of thanks or awards or anything else.
For you see, that is the meaning of Christmas. A God, who out of His infinite love for us, undeserving as we are, gave His only Son as a sacrifice for our wrongs, so that we might live forever. How small our gifts are in comparison, yet they are what we can give in thanks. Now, that in itself is enough, but giving to others isn’t all there is. You see the real gift of Christmas isn’t just giving to others less fortunate, but it’s also found in the greatest gift that Christmas meaning is really focused on. Read on and find out what this is.
The Impact of Unresolved Offenses
What is the greatest gift you could give or the greatest one you’d want to receive? Think about that for a minute. Of all the things you could give to another or that you could receive from another, what would it be? Some people would say a new sports car, a huge pile of cash, a new house, a vacation, an engagement ring, or any number of objects. Still others would say a weekend of doing nothing, to have their house cleaned, laundry done, lawn mowed or just peace and quiet. All of those are fine requests, but I don’t believe they are the greatest gift you could receive or give.
When you consider the number of people who have offended or wronged you or that you’ve offended or wronged, it is staggering. In fact, I believe that we go through our days wronging people so often that we don’t even consider it. How about some examples:
- A friend shares a text you sent them with others and these people suddenly turn against you or talk behind your back.
- Confidences of the heart are loosely spread to others and trust is broken.
- People vacation together, but before long negative interaction ratchets up, anger simmers but selfishness rules and offenses occur, when things boil over.
- You interact with friends or loved ones and wrongs of the past are brought up, but go unresolved.
- A stranger cuts you off on the road or in the shopping mall and you shake your fist in anger.
- Words of friendship are twisted and soon judgement of others rain down leaving the person isolated and hurt.
- A co-worker makes insensitive remarks that get back to you, but they act happy to see you when you’re face to face.
- A person from your company takes your ideas and shares them with upper management. Shortly after that person is promoted.
- and so forth
We offend people accidentally and on purpose, but either way it doesn’t matter, since an offense has already occurred. The question is will you let it go unresolved and fester or not?
The Gift That Heals
“The greatest gift you can receive from a person you’ve offended is their forgiveness. The greatest gift you can give to a person who has offended you is your forgiveness!” Let me repeat that in a picture that you can download as a reminder, if you want (just right-click on the picture and choose “save as”)
Was that giant scream or loud exhaling of air I just heard? Of course, I realize that this will cause a lot of gnashing of teeth and hand wringing. Many people struggle with the idea of forgiveness, since it implies weakness or being controlled by other people. Nothing could be further from the truth. In both asking and giving forgiveness there is a tremendous relief for both parties or if only one is involved as I will discuss below, then relief for them.
Now, it’s very possible that trust might need to be rebuilt and it’s possible that the friendship won’t continue, BUT at least you can both move forward without the specter of the offense hanging over each other’s head. When 1,000 people were polled about their greatest regrets one of the top responses across the entire group was the regret of not reconciling with an old friend over an offense. Don’t be another statistic that’s born from pride in one or both people.
How Do We Do This Then?
The way that forgiveness is given and received begins one of two ways, either the offending person asks for forgiveness OR the offended person gives forgiveness without being asked. How do these look?
The person who is the offending party initiates with the offended party and through written or verbal means admits they were wrong and asks the other person for forgiveness. The offended party either gives or refuses forgiveness. Either way, the offending party is off the hook and can go forth living their life to the best of their ability. The offended party, if they refuse forgiveness now holds the entire issue like the ancient mariner with the albatross around his neck.
Many times the offended party wants the other party to pay some lengthy price for the offensive and in some cases this occurs. The reality though is that once forgiveness is sought then to withhold it might be one of the most prideful moments in humanity. Unless the offended party plans to never offend another person and hope that they are forgiven, the need to forgive is universal for current and future healing.
One of the biggest sticking points is the incredible pride, and I’m not talking about the positive kind, that fills the offending or offended parties. That pride is what causes more wars, battles, divorces, organization and church split-ups and lawsuits than perhaps any other issue. If pride is removed then there is a very good chance of forgiveness, reconciliation and healing. Otherwise, there will be years and thousands of dollars spent on legal and therapy fees!
Offended party gives forgiveness
There are times that the offending party doesn’t move toward asking forgiveness and seeking reconciliation. That doesn’t mean that forgiveness can’t be given, rather the offended party simply gives forgiveness to the offending party. This can be done by contacting the offending party or simply done, if contact isn’t possible.
When the offended party gives forgiveness, even if the offending party doesn’t ask for it, then the bonds are still broken and the offended party can move on in healthy living.
This might seem foreign to so many people, because they want their pound of flesh for being offended. Again, PRIDE with a capital P is what rules this and let me tell you from experience that forgiveness given and received is THE ONLY HEALING THAT LASTS!
What Is The Takeaway From This?
As we approach Christmas in a few days, we have decorated our houses and trees. We’ve put presents for those we love under the tree. We’ve filled stockings with goodies and baked sumptuous meals to celebrate. We’ve readied our houses for family that’s returning and guests that will visit. There’s just one more thing though…..
None of this matters and it’s all just pomp and circumstances if there is forgiveness that’s needed. Please, if possible, contact those who you’ve offended and ask them for forgiveness. If you’ve been offended then contact the other party and tell them that you forgive them. Of course, please use discretion, but truly it is rare that reaching out isn’t possible. The sticking point as mentioned above is pride and that cannot be an excuse. Who would withhold antibiotics and bandage for a wound? In the same way, why would you withhold the healing power of forgiveness given and received to the wounds of the heart?
Forgiveness after all is the true meaning of Christmas, of the baby born in a manger in a lowly stable in Bethlehem some 2000 years ago. I will end this now, as there are those that I need to call and apply the healing of forgiveness. May your Christmas season be filled with love, laughter and forgiveness.
Merry Christmas to you & your loved ones!
P.S. This model of forgiveness should occur all year round, but it seems that most people focus on it during Thanksgiving and Christmas. I highly encourage you to make giving and receiving forgiveness something that you practice year-round. You and those you’re around will be better for it!