Romans 12:18 
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

For many the holidays can be a season of great joy.  Time spent with family. Shared laughter around a dinner table. The celebration of longstanding traditions.  For others; however, the holidays can bring with them stress, frustration, and heartache. Rather than a season of joy, the holidays serve as a glaring reminder of family imperfections, broken relationships, and great disappointments.

If you fall into the later camp, you may be dreading the upcoming weeks; feeling unprepared to deal with the inevitable situations that await you.  If that’s you, I assure you there is hope.

Colossians 3:12-15 says,  “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.” 

If we break this passage down, I believe we can find several keys to not just handling, but maximizing our joy this holiday season.

1. Understand that no individual or family is perfect.  While we all have visions in our head of what the quintessential family should look like, there is just no such thing.  In our broken and fallen world, we all have flaws.  Including me and you. Given that families are made up of broken people, all families will have their struggles.  Think you know the perfect family?  I guarantee you that even they have their struggles. Realizing this truth, with humility and acknowledgment of your own shortcomings, put on a heart of compassion and show kindness, gentleness, and patience towards others in your life.

2. Let go of the little things and choose to forgive. While some family situations are complex, messy, and not easily fixable, Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Before you find yourself sitting at the Thanksgiving dinner table, choose now to let go of the things that don’t really matter and to forgive others as Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).  For the more complex situations, purpose to do your part to resolve them now.  Choose to speak truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and address the issue at hand.  Life is too short to allow conflict to destroy relationships.

3.  Choose love. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.”  When you look at those around you, remember that love is a choice.  Are you willing to love others because Christ first loved you?  How can you show love to those in your life this holiday season?  Perhaps it is simply not demanding your own way, (hmm, perhaps I should have let my Mom and sister handle the Thanksgiving pie situation rather than not so subtly insisting one of them make a chocolate pie!…) letting go of the little things that don’t really matter, or forgiving a past hurt.

4.  Be thankful. While all families have their issues, in reality I’m certain that we each have much to be thankful for.  Family is a blessing. What specific things can you be thankful about in regards to your family?  What are specific qualities in individuals you will celebrate with that you appreciate?

This year, as you gather with family and friends, give all the imperfect people around you an extra hug, being thankful that God has placed them in your life.  My prayer for each of you reading this is that you would experience a joyous holiday season filled with time spent with family, shared laughter around a dinner table, and the celebration of longstanding traditions.  May you be blessed!

*If you have been encouraged by what you just read, I would love for you to pass the encouragement along and share it with a friend! 

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