At this time of year there is a lot of talk about peace. It’s almost as if we’re thinking of a blanket amnesty like the football played in the trenches of the First World War in 1914. We may not have resolved all our problems, but for a day at least we can put them aside in a spirit of goodwill to everyone.
Yet the world will continue to have plenty of places where peace will not prevail this Christmas. Conflict in central Africa and the middle east will not cease. Oppression of Christians in Islamic or communist states will continue with a vengeance. And of course even in Christian households and churches there will be strife and discord.
We’ve not previously quoted Doctor Who in this blog before, but one thing the twelfth doctor says is apposite for this occasion:
The only way anyone can live in peace is if they’re prepared to forgive.*
This is the motivation behind God’s incarnation. Creating an opportunity for reconciliation, God chose to forgive so that humanity can live at peace with God. But it’s not merely for us to enjoy, to indulge ourselves in, or to congratulate ourselves for. It might be a free gift but it’s not a cheap one – it cost Jesus everything to create it, and it costs us every time we choose to forgive someone. It means letting go of our right to justice, to hatred, to revenge. Just as God let go of his rights and forgave us.
The gift that keeps on giving needs to be passed on. In fact, it gets better if it’s passed on, which is why Jesus taught us to pray “Forgives us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” So give generously this Christmas, and give the gift of peace to those who don’t yet have it.