As I write this, I am looking around my undecorated home wondering when our family is going to find the time to get our Christmas tree and the rest of the holiday décor out. As December is now upon us, I am ashamed that I have waited so long. You see, I am one of those annoying people that loves the sights and sounds of the holidays. The 24-hour Christmas music station has been blasting since the day after Halloween. It’s the most wonderful time of the year and I feel like Buddy the Elf most days. But underneath all of the hustle and bustle, my heart is full of sadness and anxiety as I come face to face with the realities that the relationships and family bonds in my life are broken. Reminders of addiction, divorce, memories, and unresolved conflict keep my thoughts occupied.
Do the holidays stir these emotions in your heart? Maybe you don’t get along well with your family or a particular church member and you are dreading the upcoming events that force you to spend time with them.
Conflict is a real thing. God never intended for our relationships to be this way, but because sin entered the world there is now pain and hurt that we have to face. Sometimes it seems no matter how hard we try, there is always some sort of friction. As Christians, we ache for there to be peace in our relationships and the holidays seem to bring that out more so.
As you prepare to host people in your home or visit that hard to love family member, let me remind you that there is hope if you are a child of God. You may not be able to experience the fantasy that your holiday is going to be a scene from “White Christmas,” but you can have something that exceeds that. Real peace.
This is not the same peace that the world celebrates, but a different, better kind of peace. This is a peace knowing that we have been reconciled to God. First, this peace is experienced when there is reconciliation between us and God through justification. All of us, at one time, were enemies of God but now obtain access by faith into His grace. What a reason to rejoice that we have been saved from the wrath of God! Second, because of this peace we have with God, we can strive to be at peace with others. Unfortunately there will always be conflict, but through the hope of the Gospel, we can extend peace to others. This is never something that we could do on our own, this can only occur from a life of gratitude that understands what we have been saved from.
How does this work out practically as you prepare for yet, another awkward time with relatives and friends that can’t seem to get along if their lives depended on it? What does it look like to “strive to be at peace?”
Pray for the Lord to work in your heart before you interact at gatherings by asking the Lord to cast all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you and all the details. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls us to pray for those that persecute us (Matt 5:44). Praying for others causes our hearts to change towards them.
Speak well of those that have hurt you:
The last thing on my mind is to speak well of the people that have caused so much hurt and suffering in my life and the lives of others. Left to myself, I will stay home and fake an illness rather than having to speak kindness. Thankfully, the Scriptures are not anything like the wisdom of the world. God’s ways are so radical and more beautiful than anything I could come up with. Speak well and be a healing balm to those in your presence.
Love when you have been wronged:
Love them, serve them, invite people over that have done wrong to you. Don’t repay evil for evil but give them something to eat or drink (Rom 12:9,20). Lord willing, this will open their eyes to what God’s grace is like. When God justified us, and saved us, His love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. That same love and affection should overflow into the lives of others.
As you prepare for your guests and encounter the possibility of another uncomfortable confrontation with family, let the peace of Christ rule in your heart (Col 3:15) and don’t let other stuff crowd that out. You can rest knowing that you are at peace with God.