Acceptance and forgiveness are the greatest gifts for Christmas.
Christmas traditions derive from the very beginning with the birth of Christ – travelling long distances to be with people we love, bringing gifts as did the wise men from the East. Family members will often cross the country or the globe to be with those special to them at Christmas time.
Repeated in families of every kind are welcome festivities with lashings of special foods, exchanging gifts thoughtfully made or purchased. Other traditions like the evergreen tree decorated with promising fruit, topped by the star shining the way to new life envisioned, symbolically for the new baby, in fact for us all. Peace, new hope, replenishment and restoration fill the air with the sounds of music inspired by deep spiritual significance of the occasion, whether believers or not, in the original true spirit of inclusivity.
Achieving Christmas Harmony
Bringing a lot of people together for a short time can result in a measure of disharmony, as people assert themselves, unaccustomed cordially to accommodating different points of view. Then there are those who sit back and expect to be waited on, contributing nothing to the bonhomie of the occasion. Others can be outright aggressive, unwilling to put aside differences for a day out of respect for the hosts and those who have contributed much to the occasion.
In Paul Theroux’s novel Motherland, the seven adult siblings, even as they aged, consistently resorted to patterned childhood behaviours when getting together for a family gathering. Never did they seem to grow on or grow up. The inevitable result was friction, unpleasantness and blow-ups, at the very time when rejoicing and gratitude were warranted. Don’t let this happen to your Christmas celebrations.
In recognition of the reality of how fraught family gatherings can be, a local radio station has been offering callers the opportunity to assist with peace negotiations to help ensure such a special occasion this Christmas generates the harmony intended. Now that’s a practical idea!
Christian churches offer peace at Christmas. We share gifts in love. Rule 12 of the Fourteen Teachings of Buddha invokes: The greatest gift in life is acceptance and forgiveness, two priceless and costless gifts, crucial to peace and harmony at any time, and especially at Christmas.
Acceptance and forgiveness can be hard to come by in families fractured by hurt, real or perceived, judged by today’s standards against what happened (or not) decades ago, stories of woundedness cultivated in self-pity, so practiced that they’re hard to let go of to grasp the hope and promise of renewal inherent in the season. As the statement from the Royal palace enunciated regarding Harry and Meghan’s claims of racism, recollections may vary.
Yet forgiveness may be hard to muster for those who have been subjected to vicious and unwarranted hatred and vitriol from those who they loved. Isolation and humiliation as means of domination are unworthy of the simple Buddhist invocation to acceptance of people where they are at, whatever their condition.
Acceptance of Self
Few of us lend to the magnanimity of the Abdallah family who lost three children and a cousin in an Oatlands tragedy. A group of cousins innocently walking to the shop for an ice cream were hit and four were killed by a drunk, drugged driver. Though grief stricken, this deeply Christian family accepted the reality of the tragedy, absorbed their grief in faith and forgave the perpetrator. This could not have been easy.
On the anniversary of the children’s death, the family launched ‘I4giveDay’, encouraging others to forgiveness in the interests of peace and harmony. Life is short. Why make it more unpleasant than the daily life struggle faced by us all? In doing so the Abdallahs spared themselves years of self-consuming hatred, resentment and desire for revenge, none of which was likely to bring peace or satiate their grief.
Oh! That we could marshal the Abdallah spirit this Christmas! Begin by acknowledging our own grief and hurt, mourning our losses. Then, by allowing acceptance of ourselves, we can forgive ourselves and forgive others who have hurt us, for they know not what they do, even if what they do has been deliberate.
We matter most. None of us is perfect. Over a long life, flaws can percolate and break through to hurt others. Unlike religious cults of environment, race, gender and colonialism now dominating the nation’s agenda, it’s okay to acknowledge faults, make reparation and seek forgiveness. We can also forgive others.
Taking a cue from the Buddhists, acceptance and forgiveness, beginning with ourselves, are the greatest gifts we can give and receive this Christmas. Extended to others, the spirit miraculously conjures up the warmth, love, peace on earth to people of good will so long promised.
A very happy Christmas to you all. Blessings!