What is it about the Christmas season and our propensity for relational stress and even conflict? In a recent “cookie exchange” with a group of women Carol shared that every single family represented by that small circle of 7 or 8 women was dealing with some kind of ongoing, rather significant relational conflict. In every case it was with someone in their immediate family including spouses, children and grandchildren.
Over coffee last week with the Director of North Way Counseling Services, I was not shocked to hear this but still very saddened. Every single counselor associated with North Way Counseling Services has a full docket of counseling appointments and a number of them will get very little time off between now and the New Year. The Director went on to say that these appointments share not small little matters of “miscommunication” but rather life altering and rather complex relational meltdowns.
For that reason, I’ve been blessed over the last couple of weeks to be drawn to one very clear characteristic of the Savior that was born on Christmas day. In John 1:14 the Bible says:
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
I heard one message just recently where the teaching pastor called grace the “necessary lubrication for the smooth operation of relationships.”
It’s a bit of a crude analogy, but it certainly does fit what most of us are living out day be day, especially in this season. The structure of our family and close relationships is fairly clear, although even that is sometimes cause for conflict.
But for the sake of our focus today, let’s operate in the understanding that we’re talking about families and close friends that are not suffering from profound fractures or a complete family re-organization.
We’re talking about people that we know, interact with, care about and would often say deeply love, but just can’t get along with. The common response to these kinds of relational conflicts is to simply say something like “I’ll just keep my mouth shut and the problem will go away” … or … “they’re never going to deal with it so I’m not going to let it pull me down”… or something such as that where we somehow abandon all hope of reconciling the relationship and moving toward the kind of peace, joy and love that is so profoundly celebrated in this Christmas season.
I was struck in my reading today in Hebrews 12 in The Passion Translation which says in verse 14-15:
“In every relationship be swift to choose peace over competition and to run swiftly toward holiness, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. Watch over each other to make sure that no one misses the revelation of God’s grace. And make sure no one lives with a root of bitterness sprouting within them which will only cause trouble and poison the hearts of many.”
That really helps me. If I can see the situation, the specific relationship with which I’m struggling, as being in part a lack of the “revelation of God’s grace” I can see that it’s not something that I have to do as much as it is something I have to share. The reason why the Lord Jesus came “full of grace and truth” is because He knew that’s exactly what we would need in order to flourish in our daily relationships with people for whom we care a great deal.
That same grace is available to every one of us in this very moment if we simply stop, lay down our arguments and defensiveness, and ask God for the grace to love the individual or family with whom we are having such difficulties. Remember, grace is from the Greek word “charis” which means a gift and it is not something that we earn from God nor is it something that people earn from us. It must be freely given and candidly, in our human relationships, it can only come by the overflow of the grace of God which we have received in Jesus whom we celebrate in this wonderful season.
Ask God to make your Christmas relationships full of “grace and truth.”