Rev. Mark H. Creech
From pain to peace: The power of forgiveness at Christmastime
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By Rev. Mark H. Creech
December 21, 2023

While Christmas is traditionally associated with gatherings of friends and family, joy, and cheer, it can also be a season of deep pain and sadness for many. Over the past couple of weeks, I've had three acquaintances unexpectedly turn to me for emotional support and counsel. Their stories reveal that the holiday season isn't always a time of celebration for everyone.

One friend shared that her mother had recently attempted to reconnect with her. However, their history was filled with strife and estrangement, making it difficult for her to engage in a conversation with her mother. Another friend tearfully explained that Christmas seemed to serve as a platform for family members to air grievances and vent their frustrations, leaving her feeling trapped in the middle. And then, a grandmother lamented her separation from her daughter and grandchildren during this Christmas due to unresolved conflicts. These stories are poignant reminders of the pain and heartache that can accompany the holiday season.

Yet, at the core of the Christmas story lies a profound message of the importance of forgiveness. According to the Bible, humanity willingly rebelled against its benevolent Creator, resulting in alienation from God and the emergence of evil thoughts and actions within our hearts (Mark 7:20-23). This separation extends not only to God but also to one another. Acknowledging our need for God's forgiveness and experiencing it is the first step towards becoming forgiving individuals.

In the prayer that Jesus taught us, the Lord's Prayer, we say, "Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us" (Luke 11:2-4). Often, these words are recited without fully grasping their meaning. However, they underscore the idea that our forgiveness from God is intertwined with our willingness to forgive others.

Horace once said, "It is right for him who asks forgiveness for his offenses to grant it to others." Similarly, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton wrote, "Life that ever needs forgiveness has for its first duty to forgive." This reciprocity is central to the concept of forgiveness.

Moreover, the Christmas story is a testament to how God seeks reconciliation with mankind. Despite being the wronged party, God takes the initiative to reconcile with us. He has taken the first step towards peace with us through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. This divine effort to bridge the gap between us and God demonstrates the profound nature of forgiveness.

As we consider the joy of forgiving and being forgiven, we must remember that Christmas symbolizes God's pursuit of reconciliation. God, the offended party, extends the hand of peace. In the balance of love, the joy to forgive and the joy to be forgiven hang level.

Brian Harbour beautifully articulates this truth:

    "'But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.’ (Romans 5:8). That is the message of Christmas. When we did not deserve it, when we had no right to expect it, when we were yet in our sins, then Jesus loved us and came to us and embraced our lives…In Christianity, the message that erupts from that dark Judean night long ago is that God seeks man."

In other words, God, the offended party, takes the first step to make things right. He freely grants forgiveness and actively seeks peace and reconciliation.

Wrapped in the beautiful package of love is the gift of forgiveness—a free gift that Christmas offers. It is a unique opportunity for seeking or extending forgiveness. If you have not sought God's forgiveness in Christ, don't delay another moment.

Christmas is also a time for estranged family members to seek forgiveness, for friends to reconcile, and for communities to come together in unity and cooperation.

Admittedly, reconciliation may not always be achievable. Sometimes, our offers of peace and goodwill may be rejected, mirroring God's own rejection by many. Yet, this rejection does not exempt us from our duty to forgive. We should follow the example of the Lord, always standing ready with a heart eager to forgive at the first sign of repentance.

If our efforts at reconciliation are met with rejection, we can take solace in God's forgiveness and find comfort in knowing that we have fulfilled our scriptural duty: "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone" (Romans 12:18).

Christmas is a day that transcends time, reminding us that the past, present, and future are intertwined. It is a day when we should embrace forgiveness, allowing us to let go of every grudge and grievance.

© Rev. Mark H. Creech

 

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Rev. Mark H. Creech

Rev. Mark H. Creech is Executive Director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc. He was a pastor for twenty years before taking this position, having served five different Southern Baptist churches in North Carolina and one Independent Baptist in upstate New York.

Rev. Creech is a prolific speaker and writer, and has served as a radio commentator for Christians In Action, a daily program featuring Rev. Creech's commentary on social issues from a Christian worldview.

In addition to RenewAmerica.com, his weekly editorials are featured on the Christian Action League website and Agape Press, a national Christian newswire.

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