Cancel the annual holiday guilt trip

Posted: Friday, December 05, 2008

Some dread Christmas.

These aren't modern Scrooges, humbugging the reason for the season; they just have trouble handling some of the uncomfortable feelings that arrive uninvited at this time of the year.

Melancholy moods often surface at Christmas.

Sometimes gloomy feelings are caused by guilt.

Since Christmas brings a flood of memories, the good replays are likely to be accompanied by unpleasant ones that put a damper on family gatherings. How can we keep guilt feelings from overshadowing holiday reunions that ought to be great memory makers for the future?

Shall we pretend these regrettable clashes with relatives didn't happen? Can we quiet our consciences by lowering our standards or magnifying the faults of others who may have committed more serious transgressions than our own? Would transferring blame be a good strategy for family peace on this very special day?

Of course not!

There is a better path to peace than blaming others for our failures and it's found in the true message of Christmas.

Celebrating the birth of the Savior is not only for giving and receiving but also for forgiving and breaking down barriers between people who are at odds, especially those who are members of our families. Forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts and we ought to be as quick to forgive as our Lord has been in forgiving us.

Jesus continually ministered to those who knew they were guilty, forgiving them and setting them free.

How can we get rid of guilt?

We become guilt free by receiving the gift of forgiveness and passing it on to all who have wronged us. From the manger to the cross everything about forgiveness is personal.

Rembrandt, the famous Dutch artist, wanted to demonstrate this in his painting of the crucifixion so he included himself among the watching crowd at the cross. This was his way of saying he also needed to be forgiven.

Humble shepherds made their way from the hills outside Bethlehem to the stable and the manger because they were seeking the promised Savior who could forgive them.

Wise men traveled from afar with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to present to the one who came to give the greatest gift of all: forgiveness. And here you are dreading Christmas because you feel guilty about some action or attitude that has estranged you from people who love you and long to sense your love for them at the family Christmas gathering.

Stop long enough in your Christmas rush to be forgiven.

Make this your last holiday guilt trip.

Open your heart to the one who came into the world to make it possible for you to be forgiven and forgive others. That's what Christmas is all about!

Roger Campbell is an author, broadcaster and columnist who was a pastor for 22 years. He can be reached at

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