I am often struck by the imagery and themes of Christmas. Among them, rings peace and reconciliation.
According to the Biblical account of Christmas, the first announcement of the baby’s birth was made by angels to shepherds outside of Bethlehem. And it went like this…
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
The Christmas season is to be a celebration of peace, goodwill, and reconciliation. Yet, for many families, thoughts of peace rarely accompany the holiday season. Instead, the exact opposite is all too common. Years of bitterness, resentment, and depression have been piled on top of misconceptions, misunderstandings, and misbehavior. And family peace was lost years ago… and is yet to be reclaimed.
Family relationships can cause conflict, turmoil, and stress at any time, but the tensions are often heightened during the holidays – that is what makes the Christmas season so difficult for many. Family misunderstandings and conflicts naturally intensify when you are thrown together for several days… or if you are separated because of them. It is time to get over our differences. And instead, to offer goodwill and reclaim peace in our family relationships.
This Christmas, give the gift of overdue peace.
1. Determine to be responsible for your attitude, not other’s. True, you can’t control the attitude of others, but you are the only one responsible for yours. Take an active stand against the attitudes of bitterness and rejection in your family. Because if we know anything about resentment, we know that it will swallow everyone in its path until someone takes a stand against it.
2. Embrace humility. Long-running family strife is rarely caused by one individual. It may have started with an inappropriate word, misdeed, or misunderstanding, but its unresolution is the fault of many. Embrace humility and forgiveness even if you are not the author of the conflict. If you are harboring resentment towards another human being because of past hurts, choose to forgive and move on. The harm was their fault. But allowing it to weigh down your life today is yours.
3. Accept disagreement and put it behind you. It is foolish and prideful to assume that everyone is going to agree with you. Whether your family disagreements center on worldview, religion, parenting styles, or sports’ teams, your ability to love others despite them is central to interpersonal relationships. Healthy families don’t reject their members who think differently – they become stronger because of them. This Christmas, seek to listen and hear rather than judge and lecture.
4. Take the first step. Make the bold decision to be the first in your family to offer peace and reconciliation. This step is often as simple as a phone call. Try this for a lead-in, “Hey, I’m just calling to wish you a Merry Christmas. I know we’ve had disagreements in the past, but I just want you to know that I love you very much and I hope we can put them behind us…” And while one phone call may not heal years of deep personal pain and rejection, it is often the first step that never gets taken.
This post will be read nearly 20,000 times in these coming days leading up to Christmas. And while it’s unreasonable to assume that that many families will find peace because of it, it is reasonable to assume that maybe one family, somewhere, will be brought together and find peace again because of it – and that thought alone makes it worth it.
After all, maybe (just maybe), it will be your family… or maybe even mine.