This is Day 21 of the 30 Days of Giving: Making Christmas Meaningful campaign, which is designed to bring the community creative and practical ways to cheerfully give this holiday season through gifts, relationships and charity. Come visit the 30 Days of Giving Advent Calendar each day in our countdown to Christmas for intriguing and original ways to help you to experience and spread the spirit of joyful giving that God intended throughout the holiday season.

Christmas can be a wondrous holiday, full of celebration with loved ones who gather near … too near, it may seem in some cases. While it’s always a challenge to deal with difficult family members and strained or broken relationships, nothing seems to attract strife, nurture disharmony or cultivate conflict between family members quite like the holidays.

And that is exactly what Satan likes to see. He would like nothing more than for us to focus on our differences, to fight over – well, anything, as long as it serves to keep us apart and away from time spent loving one another and worshiping our Lord.

Why should you forgive someone who simply can’t – or won’t – stop with the negative behavior or the hurtful comments? That difficult family member who always seems to ruin the holidays for everyone else?

It may not be easy, and in fact it can be downright hard to forgive someone who has hurt you or who ruins every special occasion. But, in the true spirit of Christmas, it must be done. Forgiveness is, after all, “the reason for (ok, the reason behind) the season.”

For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through him.John 3:16-17

We celebrate the birth of Jesus because His life – and his death on the cross – were the Lord’s gifts to us so that our sins would be forgiven and we could spend eternity in heaven with Him. If God is willing to forgive us, then should we not forgive those who have trespassed against us and give them our love at Christmastime – or any time? Especially when it comes to family?

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. Whoever loves the Father also loves the child who is born of him —1 John 5:1

But how can we forgive someone if they won’t change? What if they really hurt us? What if they don’t see how their actions caused us pain?

The fact is that it isn’t up to us to judge; it is up to us to forgive and to let God do the judging. Even if someone hurts us, we are told to forgive them and trust that God will address it.

We are all, in one way or another, difficult. We are each capable of hurting others. Perhaps the best way to begin forgiving those difficult relatives this Christmas season is to first take stock in ourselves; to admit our own shortcomings and to ask forgiveness of those we may have hurt.

Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged. For with whatever judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with whatever measure you measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but don’t consider the beam that is in your own eye? Or how will you tell your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye;’ and behold, the beam is in your own eye? You hypocrite! First remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:1-5 

In the true spirit of the holiday, the biggest gifts we can give others this Christmas are the ones that God gave to us, the gifts of love and forgiveness.

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