When purchasing Christmas gifts this year save the Who Hoovers, Gar Ginkers, Zing Tinglers and Zu Zitter Carzay for the Grinch on your list. Or better yet – save yourself the money… no one needs them.
What if, instead, you got an idea – a wonderful, yet awful idea? What if you gave something wonderfully exquisite, something never to be forgotten, timeless and treasured, but in contrast, so terrifying to offer that the thought of it seems incredibly awful and virtually impossible to give?
There will, no doubt, be people on your Christmas list who you love and adore and for whom you will gladly hustle, bustle and scramble to find the perfect present. At Christmas, we want more than anything to offer a tangible expression to convey our gratitude, devotion and allegiance for the individuals who have enriched our life and walked in when everyone else was walking out.
Although there will be obligatory, love-driven, gag, pay back and sympathy gifts handed out by millions this year, there is one of a different sort that will be in short supply because it is the most difficult to turn loose. Although it doesn’t come in a box covered by sleigh red wrapping, it is the greatest, most significant present a person could ever offer… it is forgiveness.
One of the ironies about this gift is that it is has dual benefits, the kind that ends up being a present to both the giver and the taker. It also carries the rare quality of being an everlasting gift; its shelf life is without expiration.
Forgiveness is usually dispensed only to people we think deserve it, have shown remorse, accepted responsibility and verbally apologized. The problem with these requirements is that while we wait for the offender to take action we poison ourselves with bitterness and anger. The pulse of true forgiveness is giving grace to those who least deserve it and without regard to their performance. Few things could be more meaningful during the holiday season than the mending of fractured relationships.
Self-forgiveness is also virtuous. Personal failures and shortcomings as a mother, father, son, daughter or spouse can plague and cripple one with regret. Wishing we could have a do over, go back in time or change past actions doesn’t remedy history or bring healing to the loved ones we injured… or ourselves. Self-condemnation and self-bullying is what many turn to as an antidote. However, it’s only a mirage: a cloud without rain, a tree without shade, and counterfeit currency whose promise offers no real comfort or healing payment. Make peace with God, self and those you offended then move on with the determination to learn from mistakes.
I am close to someone who gave me this most incredible gift. I betrayed, denied, lied, cheated, rejected and abused his every attempt to reach out, befriend and rescue me. If anybody ever had the right to hate and withhold forgiveness toward me, it was he. He did just the opposite and became a friend closer than the brother I never had and bestowed on me this most extraordinary gift. It came without ribbons… it came without tags… it came without packages, boxes or bags. His second chance ways became the catalyst to a life change that brought me restoration and hope.
And what happened, then? Well in Whoville, they might say that my heart grew several sizes that day, and the true meaning of Christmas came through. The good news is if you will give and take forgiveness, the same can come to you.
Jay Lowder is a full-time evangelist and founder of Jay Lowder Harvest Ministries and author of “Midnight in Aisle 7: Sometimes God Introduces Himself Outside the Church Walls.” Follow him on Twitter at @jaylowder or @jlhministries.