Christmas is a time when families gather together for turkey and presents and other traditions. Airlines jack ticket prices and gas stations raise fuel prices because this is peak traveling season.
My family always gathered at my grandparents house (on my dad’s side) for Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Lately, we’ve moved back to the old farmhouse (now my uncle’s) for our Christmas celebration, where my aunt and her husband take care of the turkey while the rest of us play cards or nibble on nuts and chocolates.
Over the years, our traditions have changed. Once upon a time, we read the Christmas story before opening gifts. Most years, Grandma bakes a Christmas pudding, which we drown in lemon or butterscotch sauce and eat with a smile (though some of us don’t like it).
A few years ago, we started doing a Chinese gift exchange—each of us chooses a random, silly or useful gift that any of the other relatives might like and then on Christmas morning we take turns opening and fighting over presents. It’s usually good for some laughs as one or two presents prove to be the most popular and change hands several times before ending up with the lucky person who gets to take it home.
Among the traditions, dinner, and family fun, however, there can sometimes be tension. Families don’t always get along perfectly and so preparations for Christmas may come with trepidation about family members who have caused hurt in the past. We might put on happy faces, manage to avoid that person in the crowd of people gathered around the tree, try to ignore the hurt or the distance or whatever happened that makes it hard to see that person again. Or maybe we can use this time of joy as a time for reconciliation.
Jesus came into this world so many Christmases ago to reconcile us to God. Saint Paul tells us,
“So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived! All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:17-18 CEB).
As I think about the family we’ll see next week, I’m praying for reconciliation. I’m praying for a heart of forgiveness. I’m praying that the joy of Christmas will surround us and give us the strength to look past old hurts and to at least start the healing process.
I know maybe that’s all a big dream, but I believe God can work in my heart and in the heart of the people with whom I wish to reconcile. Maybe this Christmas will be the year that we can truly celebrate Christ’s birth as God’s work of reconciliation with us.
Check out the other posts in my Advent 2011 series:
First Sunday: Preparation
Second Sunday: Anticipation
Third Sunday: Rejuvenation
Fourth Sunday: Reconciliation