Trying to find a Christmas gift for someone can be challenging at times. Some people are just hard to shop for. Choosing something to give them as a gift does not come easy for various reasons. We search for what we think will be a fitting present, but even the gift we finally decide on still leaves us with uncertainty. Do they need it, will they like it, is it their style are questions we try to answer?
During the Christmas season, when a high emphasis is placed on family and friends, fun and fellowship, and togetherness, one can often observe a tremendous amount of stress and tension regarding the people in our lives. Wherever there are relationships, you can be sure that there are also hurt feelings, misunderstandings, animosity, and bitterness. Relationships are fragile things that can easily be broken over time in our lives. People stop talking to one another, ignore one another, and speak badly about someone to others. It happens in our families, friendship circles, workplaces, and even in our churches. Hence, singing “sleep in heavenly peace” is sometimes hard to find when there is no peace with the people in our lives when the Christmas season arrives.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus states in the Sermon on the Mount, “So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” Jesus instructed his followers that in bringing their gifts of offering to God in worship, remember that there is a broken relationship in their lives. They should first seek to reconcile this relationship by offering and receiving forgiveness. Forgiveness is God’s way of healing relationships that become broken in our lives. Indeed, forgiveness is the gift God offered to all of humanity because of our sin.
This Christmas, we might want to think about offering the gift of forgiveness to others in our lives and receive forgiveness when offered to us. We don’t have to begin a new year weighed down by the broken relationships in our lives. Instead, we can realize that life is too short to continue to cling to the unforgiveness in our lives. We can let of bitterness and animosity and replace them with the gift of forgiveness. And when forgiveness is offered and received, only then can we genuinely sleep and live in heavenly peace. Thus, perhaps before the big gift exchange of Christmas day, we might first seek to reconcile with people in our lives so that the joy of the gift-giving season finds its real meaning.