I wrote this story for the December 2009 issue of San Clemente Presbyterian’s NewsBreak.
Shortly before the first Christmas, Joseph informed his betrothed, the very pregnant Mary, that she would be undertaking a lengthy trip, by donkey, over rough terrain. If you’ve ever traveled a long distance as—or with—a woman in her final days of gestation, you understand that Mary may have endured some of the worst holiday travel in history. How do you say, are we there yet in Aramaic?
When the couple arrived in Bethlehem and could find only shelter with livestock, from the standpoint of modern marriage, I have to wonder whether they were reduced to squabbling, stress, or simply exhausted disappointment.
And then a miracle occurred.
Mary gave birth and wrapped the Child who would be Prince of Peace in mere swaddling clothes—and she and Joseph marveled at the knowledge that His birth was as God ordained.
For many families, anticipation of the holidays brings a combination of joy, fond memories—and anxiety. We are already busy enough. How can we afford all these gifts? What about broken or tense relations between relatives, families suffering from divorce, separation, or job loss? Are we blessed on our own bumpy road to Bethlehem?
Christmas offers a bright new possibility of giving the peace of Christ–that we might know Christ’s peace.
This Advent, let us extend our God-given forgiveness to one another. Certainly, you can’t give away what you don’t have. But, through Him, we have all been forgiven–and indeed abundantly so. When we choose not to judge (or begrudge), and let go of past wrong-doings, that small yet tremendously healing gesture is multiplied exponentially, much like loaves and fishes.
Ask yourself whether you want to be right or have peace; Do you want restitution or resolution? Discard all “debts” owed to you, or your personal circumstances, by having the courage to look upon them as Jesus does–with infinite love and potential–and in doing so you will find peace.
Offer yourself the same mercy: Forgive yourself your past failings. Jesus does. Amend for long hours of work or worry by laughing with your children, spending time with your spouse, family, or a neighbor in need. As the body of Christ, within us lies the Holy Spirit, and we can help move His grace through the world by doing His work, and in doing so be lifted up.