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. (Matthew 5: 23-24)
The Advent and Christmas should be a festive, happy, joyful time for us all, right? Well, that’s not always the case. It’s often stressful planning for family gatherings, worship services, Christmas programs, midterms at school-even planning for vacation can stress us out! When we’re stressed like this, often the worst comes out in us. We get cranky, we argue, and we seem to find fault in everything and everyone around us. Who knows why this happens—maybe it’s because we want the holidays to be “perfect”?
The thing is, Christmas is in no way, shape, or form about perfection. It is about celebrating God coming to live among us as the Christ child and Savior of all of people. It is Jesus, living and active around us that makes the holidays “perfect” and not anything we do to try and make them so. And it is the celebration of his birth that should be bringing us together at these times when we tend to be stressed and ready for an argument with our loved ones at almost any time.
It is also Jesus who, in this text from Matthew’s gospel, calls us to work out our issues with one another, openly and honestly, in the midst of the holiday stresses—and even in the day to day stresses we all experience. That’s not easy, but with Christ, it is possible.
We are not called to hold back our frustrations with each other “just because it’s Christmas”. But we are called to love another with the love of Christ in the midst of the ways we fail and hurt one another. And we all do it. We all snap at each other, disappoint and hurt each other. And that is okay! Anger and frustration will happen as long as humans are on this earth. What perhaps isn’t the greatest, is hiding that pain, anger, and hurt just because it’s Christmas. Who among us can really enjoy this holiday when we’re grumpy with each other? I know I can’t!
So as we move closer and closer to the manger this Advent season, I encourage you to lift one another and your relationships in prayer. Pray that the stresses be few, and that each one of us is able to not just put aside our disagreements but to actually work them out. It’s not about not fighting so we have a perfect holiday-it’s about working on our Christ-centered relationships, and learning to love and serve each other even when we mess up and cause pain.
May we all find time to reconcile with our brothers and sisters in Christ this Advent and Christmas—at the manger, font, and table where he who will be born, makes us one body in Christ.