In these times of political and social turmoil on the national stage, the festivities of Christmas herald an opportunity for joy and merriment, an oasis of goodwill and peace for humankind.
Irrespective of whether one believes passionately in Christianity or rejects the religion as irrelevant, millions of Australians will celebrate the birth of Christ with family and friends without any sentient adherence to, or awareness of, one of his most holy gospels, at least superficially.
Sadly instead, with forgiveness forsaken, togetherness over the turkey will be tense, touched by anger, animosity and argument as long-held, familial hurts vent themselves in unforgiving ingratitude. Despite one’s best intentions, an inner, personal disquiet may evoke traumatic memories of mistakes, misdeeds and misunderstandings, however inadvertent.
As a Jew, Christmas has had no import on my calendar, but over the years I received several invitations to join Christian friends in their celebrations. Much to my disappointment, some of these friends bemoaned spending Christmas with their families, commenting they were glad it was over for another year.
Certainly, most families will genuinely rejoice in the shared experience of love and connection, happily participating in convivial conversation over the plum pudding and cheerfully welcoming thoughtful gifts.
For those lamenting the occasion, it seems appropriate to acknowledge Jesus’s moral instruction of forgiveness as stated on the cross: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” as recorded in Luke 23:24.
Unfortunately, some people apparently know not what they say either, but by forgiving their folly of offensive insults and put-downs, possibly unconscious, Christmas can transcend emotional betrayal by embracing empathy, understanding and gratitude. Significant also is forgiving oneself for foolishness and insensibility, which should be reappraised as foibles of the human condition and frailties to overcome.
For forgiveness can be a liberating therapy to free one’s psyche from psychological pain, engendering a pious reflection on kindness and compassion as enshrined in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”.
However, forgiveness is not only about feelings, but a deliberate choice to make about human transgressions; a choice to inspire a more benevolently creative perspective in both hearts and minds for calm contentment this Christmas.
It is not just Christians who could invest in forgiveness, but people of all faiths might cherish this Christmas with a new, positive spirit of amity towards others and themselves to ensure endearing experiences all year round.