But the season can also be very difficult for those who have lost a loved one and are facing a Christmas season without that person, for those who have experienced life changing events (health issues, divorce, job loss, etc.).
One thing that can make the Christmas season especially difficult is when someone has sinned against you in an especially painful way. That deep hurt and joy and laughter all around seem incongruous. How can you sing "Joy to the World" while feeling hurt and angry inside?
We know that others will sin against us, but it seems unfair that things like that should happen during Christmas season. The very time of year might make it harder to deal with.
So how do we forgive those who have sinned against us and hurt us deeply?
Jesus addresses that very question in a parable He told, which is recorded in Matthew 18:21-35.
(I preached a sermon on this text back in 2008 and you might find it helpful also. Click here to listen to it).
21Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.
23“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Of course, knowing how great a debt we've been forgiven doesn't necessarily mean that it will be easy for us to forgive others. We still have to deal with feeling hurt and the anger we have as a result. But the good news is that just as God send His son into the world to be our Savior, God the Holy Spirit has also been sent to us so that we might be able to trust in Jesus and live holy lives.
The Holy Spirit brings healing and peace to our hearts.
So when you struggle to forgive, remember God's forgiveness and pray that the Holy Spirit, who dwells within the hearts of all believers in Christ, would give you a heart of forgiveness.
And yes, you can sing "Joy to the World" because the whole reason there is joy is that Jesus has come and He has established the reign of God in which we receive forgiveness and can grant forgiveness freely. You can sing "Joy to the World" also because even though you're hurting right now, there will come a day when Jesus returns and there will be no more sin, anger, hurt feelings, or troubled relationships. When Jesus returns, there will truly be joy and peace.
May the love of God the Father, the Salvation and forgiveness we have through Jesus Christ, and the peace and sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit be with you this Christmas season.