For some people Christmas is not a time of joy, but depression. In some cases it’s because their families are fractured by divorce and their memories are painful. In their book, None of These Diseases, SI McMillen and David Stern described the damage we inflict on ourselves when we dislike someone or refuse to forgive them. ‘The moment I begin to hate a man, I become his slave. He controls my thoughts. He controls my feelings. He even controls my dreams. Stress hormones constantly surge through my bloodstream and wear down my body… the one I hate hounds me wherever I go.’
As your family gathers for Christmas, perhaps there’s a member you don’t like or haven’t forgiven. If so, remember that Jesus came into the world to love the unlovely and forgive the unworthy. The word ‘grace’ means ‘unearned, unmerited, undeserved favour’. And Christ will flush the anger and resentment out of your heart if you let Him. If you’re not looking forward to seeing someone in your family this Christmas, offer this prayer: ‘Lord, I confess that I don’t like _______ and I’m dreading being with them. Help me to forgive and show grace. Let the love of Christ flow through me this Christmas. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.’
You say, ‘But they don’t deserve to be forgiven.’ Yes, and neither did youdeserve God’s love and forgiveness. Jesus said, ‘Love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you… Do to others as you would like them to do to you.’ (Luke 6:27–28, 31 NLT) That’s the Christmas spirit!