Christmas and mistakes go hand in hand. Like the time we bought the wrong gift for Uncle Harry. Or the time we said the wrong thing at the wrong time leading to an uncomfortable moment or worse. The gatherings of Christmas often remind us why we struggle to like a relative or acquaintance. The season can bring out the best in us and also bring out our worst as jealousy, prejudice, and greed rise to the surface. Like it or not, the Christmas season often reminds us of why Christ came at Christmas.
This truthful realization brings us to our third advent gift from God for those following Christ. The gift of forgiveness. A small package with life-altering and heart-healing impact.
Forgiveness is Christmas’ and Golgotha’s central theme. Everything that follows flows from this one point. That God, through Jesus Christ, forgives our failures, mistakes, and sins. ““Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18, NASB95) Jesus even spoke forgiveness for the very ones who crucified Him (Luke 23:34). And Paul reminds us, “He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NASB95) Yes, this even includes you.
Our sins, mistakes, and failures separate us from God and from others. Call it what you will – A deep, unbridgeable chasm, a stout impenetrable wall, darkness so dense it seems tangible – but the forgiveness which came through Jesus bridges the impossible, breaks the impenetrable, and lights the darkest dark. Through Jesus, God says, “come!”
And that beautiful, wonderful, magnificent gift of forgiveness is to be given away to others who have wronged us. Whether they ask for it or not. We are to give to others that precious gift we have received. Or to put it another way, we as followers of Christ are to walk in forgiveness.
An increasing drumbeat of our present age is “cancel.” As in the “cancel culture.” Just another word for shunning, by the way. If I don’t like what you say or do, then I “cancel” your communication, value, and connection. Call it what it is – passive revenge. This thought-police style judgment is perpetrated by every hue of the political prism. It is also the very opposite of the love and forgiveness we are to walk in as Christians. This drumbeat of “cancel” creates gulfs, walls, and darkness of separation. Not only must we avoid the passive revenge of the “cancel culture,” but we must forgive those who seek to “cancel” us and the message of love and forgiveness we have in Christ.
Let’s bring this back a bit. How does walking in forgiveness towards that one relative or co-worker who gets under our skin change anything? In a practical sense, forgiveness unlocks a door that others may open when they are ready. We can’t make others open the door, we can’t make them receive the forgiveness we offer or force them to forgive us. All we can do is keep the door unlocked and ready to be opened – even in the hurt of fresh offenses.
If revenge is a dish best served cold, then forgiveness is a dish best served like Thanksgiving turkey – roasted, smoked, fried, cold, remade left-overs, and every other way. Forgiveness is a small but powerful gift that begins with a baby in Bethlehem. As John the Baptist declared some thirty years later, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, NASB95)