Christmas and warm memories go together like cookies and milk. It's the perfect time to sit around and sip egg nog and reminisce about the good old days.
You know the days when there was an actual fire in the fireplace, not a video of a fireplace with a manly hand occasionally turning the logs on a 50'' plasma screen. The days when you'd drag the kids on a sled through the woods unto you found the perfect tree to cut down. The days when you'd gather around the piano and sing and laugh and it never even crossed your mind to take a picture of yourself having fun because you were too distracted by actually having fun.
Maybe those were also the days when relationships were better than they are now. Before the big fight. The fallout over the inheritance. Before the alcohol had such a hold. Before you fell out of love. Before finances were such a struggle.
Do you ever feel like the best Christmas', the best days at all, are behind you? Because the relationships now are just too broken, the words said were too harsh, the debt now is just too insurmountable?
Don't let hopelessness disguise itself as nostalgia and become the new normal.
It is a wonderful thing to look back and remember special moments with family and friends. God calls us to be people who remember the good that He has done and that we've experienced. We can find a whole lot of joy this season in the memories of Christmas' past, so go on and tell the same old stories and laugh until egg nog flies out your nose.
But don't get stuck believing that there are no new memories that can be made because things are just too broken.Our God is a God of restoration, reconciliation, and change. With Him great things are possible. Not only healing from the past, but hope for today, and tomorrow as well.
Here's 3 things you can do to help ensure that nostalgia isn't hopelessness in disguise and to move towards making new memories this Christmas season:
Jesus' birth at Christmas is a major act in the grand narrative of God's mercy and forgiveness. And did you notice that it is forgiveness that is initiated by the offended party? Maybe you've been waiting for an apology that isn't coming and won't come until you initiate an honest and non-combative conversation about your pain.
The Bible instructs us to forgive as we've been forgiven. To take the example of God's forgiveness shown towards us and use it as the model for how we ought to forgive. Are you wondering how exactly you can move towards forgiveness? Let me ask another question; have you been forgiven by God? If you have, forgiveness isn't a foreign concept. It may not be easy, but it is an essential part of reconciled relationships being healthy and whole and with God's help and following His example, you can forgive.
Want to read more about how to forgive, what biblical forgiveness looks like, and how to forgive those who aren't sorry? Check out this practical guide to forgiveness we put together for a sermon series we did a while back.
2) Honest Conversations.
You could talk about the weather again. Or you could talk about work, again. Or you could talk about everyone else and all the things they've done to wrong you (this isn't a recommendation, but its a possibility).
How about an honest conversation with the person you are with about your relationship with them? Have there been hurts that need to be addressed? Is it awkward or tense but you don't know why?
Perhaps the question of why just needs to be asked. Sometimes little things become big things and when brought into the open they can easily be dealt with. Sometimes big things that are ugly need to be dragged out into the open to be dealt with too.
Honest conversations aren't always fun, and they might not fall into the category of wonderful holiday memories. But honest conversations may open the door to healing that allows for new memories to be made that aren't tainted with bitterness and resentment.
How can you prepare for a difficult honest conversation? Check your own heart. Jesus came bearing grace and truth. The book of Ephesians urges us to speak the truth in love. We are most definitely to be speakers of truth in all things, but not truth that is void of grace and love. As you consider a difficult conversation, do you feel love? Compassion? Empathy?
Or does anger or resentment about how their behavior has affected you consume you?
Anger and resentment are legitimate feelings we need to work through. We shouldn't just stuff them away and pretend they don't exist. But a conversation with hopes of reconciliation will go much different if anger and resentment are taken along to an honest conversation in the back seat with love driving the bus than if love is kicked out the side door and anger takes the wheel with resentment as the co-pilot.
Pray that you are able to speak honestly and with truthfulness, but with love, patience, understanding, and grace in your heart. And resolve in yourself the goal you hope to see - restoration of a broken relationship. Then along the way you can consider if your words and actions are helping towards that end. If you lose sight of your goal, an honest conversation can easily become about causing pain, assigning blame, and heaping shame. Our God is a God of reconciliation and restored relationships. Let's let His ways become our ways with restoration as the goal.
Which leads us to number 3....
God doesn't change. The Bible is exceedingly clear on that. But that doesn't mean He doesn't love change. He is constantly bringing and empowering change.
He brings hope to the hopeless. He gives strength to the weak. He changes restless hearts into peaceful ones. And He changes people.
He breaks addictions. He changes perspectives. He enables forgiveness where it once seemed impossible. He restores marriages. He changes troubling circumstances, and when He isn't changing the circumstances He is able to change our hearts in the midst of the trial.
When you feel like it's too late to change, the relationship is too broken to be restored, or your situation is too grave to be repaired...pray. Cry out to God. Lay out the distress of your heart before him. Ask for His will to be done in your life and in the lives of those around you, no matter how hopeless a situation may seem. Our God is great. He is powerful. And even though He Himself doesn't change...He authors change, empowers it, and sees it through in miraculous ways.
May this Christmas season be filled with nostalgic moments of years gone by, jam packed with moments of new memories made, and bursting with hope about what is possible when we turn to God in prayer and follow Jesus' example in how we speak, forgive, and love.