Last week in our new message series for Advent and Christmas that we’re calling, Family Matters: Bring Home The Hygge (a Scandinavian word for “comfort” or “coziness”), we reflected on being with family over the holidays. In particular, we discussed getting prepared for those encounters by: (i) acknowledging that the trip home may be less than perfect in some respects; (ii) having confidence that God will see us through the inevitable family squabbles that will arise; and (iii) determining to love our families no matter what.
This week, we turn our attention to the next leg of the journey home for Christmas. Before we come upon certain family members during the holiday season, it’s a good idea to work on forgiveness for past misunderstandings and painful episodes in our family relationships. This is especially true during a season in which the Church celebrates the coming of the Prince of Peace into a world so often torn by strife and division.
In the first reading this week, the prophet Baruch encourages the Jewish people by promising that God remembers them in their pain and one day will lead his people home. He will gather them from the East and the West and bring them back to their homeland in Jerusalem.
Each year the holidays call us home to family. Sometimes that can be a painful ritual that recalls bad memories and uncomfortable experiences. In the gospel reading for today, John the Baptist calls the people to “repentance for the forgiveness of sins,” in order to prepare the way of the Lord to return to their lives. The ancient Israelites were a big extended family. The twelve tribes of Israel descended from twelve brothers, the sons of the patriarch Jacob. In many ways, it was a seriously dysfunctional family. Jacob tricked his father to get what rightfully belonged to his brother, Esau. Jacob’s own sons sold one of their brothers, Joseph, into slavery. Ultimately this family dysfunction reached a fever pitch in a civil war between the northern and southern tribes that permanently destroyed the nation’s greatness.
God is gathering you back to your family as he did the ancient Israelites. Before you go home this Christmas, prepare yourself for the process of forgiveness. To the extent you are able to repent of resentment and anger, you will be much happier this holiday season. As Saint Paul says in the second reading, may “your love . . increase ever more and more,” because the holidays are a time for forgiveness and everyone needs to forgive someone.
Listen live or online to our Sunday message this weekend for practical advice on how to forgive those in our families who have hurt us the most, and then bring home the hygge of the intimacy and warmth that comes from true forgiveness.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Father Roger Gustafson