Forgiveness is the best gift we can give this time of year.
Welcome to The Weekender! Because the internet discourages focused reading, The Weekender series is designed to help you, dear reader, see the scope of God’s story in all areas of life through high-quality, curated content. On most the occasional Friday, we’ll have a fresh batch of resources to help you take a deep dive into one specific topic, theme or idea. Here’s to reading and thinking well.
During the Christmas season we hear refrains of, “Peace on earth! Good will toward men!” We say it, we sing it, but as a society, I’m not sure we really mean it. Good will, mercy and kindness are conditional at best, granted to those who deserve it, to maybe those who see the world the same way we see the world. Forgiveness is withheld as anger; resentment and bitterness boil. We’re kind of a mess.
As believers, the forgiveness of Christ has redeemed our lives. As believers, the forgiveness we offer and receive from people in our lives can bring redemption, goodwill and peace (the Luke 14:27 gospel kind) to our relationships, to our spaces. So, as we enter December, with all that swirls around us, I recommend the following Christmas books to read-aloud with your family. They each have many beautiful elements, but one thread connects them: forgiveness.
Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all people love poorly. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour increasingly. That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the week that is the human family. — Henri J.M. Nouwen
Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St. John
Synopsis: Written in 1950 and set in Switzerland, this book is centered around three children, Annette, Lucien and Dani. At its base it feels a bit like Heidi, and the plot consists of simple everyday events, but this is what makes it fantastic. We can relate. This story features themes of love, hatred, revenge, repentance, self-sacrifice, friendship and reconciliation.
Representative quote: “God is love, and when we pray we are drawing near to love, and all our hatred must melt away like the snow melts when the sun shines on it in spring. Leave Lucien to God, Annette. He rewards both good and evil, but remember, He loves Lucien just the same as He loves Dani.”
Why you should read it: Because of these words from the author:
The world was settling down after the war, but as the atrocities came to light there was so much anger and hatred. I remembered the boys coming back from the war to wives who had proved unfaithful. I remembered the faces of those who had seen the first photographic exhibition of the horrors of Belsen and the state of the bombed cities of Europe; the resentment of those who could not forgive others, the remorse of those who could not forgive themselves, and I knew that this generation of children needed, above all things, to learn the meaning of forgiveness.
A Wreath of Snow: A Victorian Christmas Novella by Liz Curtis Higgs
Synopsis: This story takes place in Stirling, Scotland, 1894. A wounded, hurting family and a man desperately seeking forgiveness are thrown together on Christmas Eve.
Representative quote: “No words, however sincere, could undo what had happened that night. Confessing his sins now would only open old wounds. Had he not done enough damage? Fueled by frustration, he jammed his shovel into the snowdrift. What was the point of asking someone’s forgiveness if it changed nothing?”
Why you should read it: Liz Curtis Higgs does historical fiction so very well, and this novella is no exception. This story may be over 100 years removed from our time now, but our God is the same. Watching this man’s courage and humility (even though it’s fiction) as he seeks to obey and honor God in very difficult circumstances is encouraging and convicting. I read this book every year and find that it is best enjoyed on a gray and snowy evening (with a pot of tea and shortbread, of course).
The Unfinished Gift by Dan Walsh
Synopsis: Set during World War II, a young boy, Patrick, whose father is MIA, is sent to live with his estranged grandfather. Patrick’s grandfather is fueled by bitterness and anger, and Patrick wants nothing more than for the army to find his father so he can leave that house.
Why you should read it: Reading this book I am reminded how God is sovereign and good even in the darkest of times. I remember that the “little things” of every day—our prayers, our actions done in faith and love—can bring change to the people around us. Our God is a God of reconciliation.
A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg
Synopsis: Mr. Oswald T. Campbell, upon hearing that he has only months to live, heads from Chicago to a small town “deep in the southernmost part of Alabama.”
Representative quote: “Oswald noticed a black duck out in the river all by himself and he wondered about it. What had caused that duck to separate from the rest? He realized he was just like that duck. All his life he had been out in the world alone while the rest of the world swam by, happy in their own flock, knowing who they were and where they belonged.”
Why you should read it: It’s fun, quirky and hilarious. It’s also a story about belonging, the strength of being in community and the power and beauty of forgiveness. Full disclosure: there is some language and one crude reference, so it’s more suited for teens or couples to read together. I have shared it with my husband, son and many friends.
Best of all, Christmas means a spirit of love, a time when the love of God and the love of our fellow men should prevail over all hatred and bitterness, a time when our thoughts and deeds and the spirit of our lives manifest the presence of God. — George McDougall