What is the very best gift you can give on this Christmas Day? I would suggest that the best gift is the gift of forgiveness, for it not only is a wonderful gift to give someone else, it is a gift you give yourself, too. I’ve been telling this story of how a young boy took his hard-earned money to buy a tree for his family one Christmas, and his mother, under stress from financial worries, berated him for spending his money foolishly. Now, many years later, his mom is visiting him and his family. As he is up late on Christmas Eve, he hears a noise in the kitchen. The story continues.

I heard a noise in the kitchen and discovered that it was mom. She couldn’t sleep either and had gotten up to make herself a cup of hot tea—which was her remedy for just about everything. As she waited for the water to boil, she walked into the living room and discovered me there. She saw my open Bible and asked me what I was reading. When I told her, she asked if I would read it to her and I did.

When the kettle began to whistle, she went and made her tea. She came back, and we started to visit. I told her how happy I was that she was with us for Christmas and how I wished that Dad could have lived to see his grandchildren and to enjoy this time because he always loved Christmas so. It got very quiet for a moment and then she said, “Do you remember that time on Twelve Mile Road when you bought that tree with your paper route money?”

“Yes,” I said, “I’ve just been thinking about it you know.”

She hesitated for a long moment, as though she were on the verge of something that was bottled up so deeply inside her soul that it might take surgery to get it out. Finally, great tears started down her face and she cried, “Oh, son, please forgive me. That time and that Christmas have been a burden on my heart for twenty-five years. I wish your dad were here so I could tell him how sorry I am for what I said. Your dad was a good man and it hurts me to know that he went to his grave without ever hearing me say that I was sorry for that night. Nothing will ever make what I said right, but you need to know that your dad never did have any money sense.

“We were two months behind in our house payments, we had no money for groceries, and that tree was the last straw. I took it all out on you. It doesn’t make what I did right, but I hoped that someday, when you were older, you would understand. I’ve wanted to say something for ever so long and I’m so glad it’s finally out.” Well, we both cried a little and held each other and I forgave her—it wasn’t hard, you know.

Then we talked for a long time, and I did understand; I saw what I had never seen and the bitterness and sadness that had gathered up in me for all those years gradually washed away. It was marvelously simple.

The great gifts of this season—or any season—can’t be put under the tree; you can’t wear them or eat them or drive them or play with them. We spend so much time on the lesser gifts but the great gifts are like the one gift—the gift that began back there in Bethlehem. You can’t buy them, and they’re not on anybody’s shopping list. They come as he came—quietly, freely, unexpectedly—and if you have unforgiveness in your life that is making you miserable, why not give the gift of forgiveness and let Jesus show you how to forgive those who have hurt you?

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