Forgiveness: A Christmas Gift!

“I said some pretty unkind things about you!” 

I was chatting with an old friend the other day…his words caught me off guard. 

Here I go, starting my blog post in the middle of a story. Let me back up. 

I had a wonderful and unexpected visit in this 2023 holiday season, and it happened at a most unusual place and unusual time: in a church, following a funeral service! 

I had been asked to play the organ for a memorial service for a very good friend, and I’m always happy to do that. 

At the conclusion of the service I played a short postlude as the attendees left the sanctuary, only to spot an elderly crippled man coming up the aisle toward the organ. Even with two canes, he was having difficulty walking. He waited until I alit the organ bench, then reached out to shake my hand. Indicating that he and I were acquaintances left me blank…I was forced to admit that I didn’t recognize the face. 

Long story short…it was the face from an earlier chapter in my life, when I was a seller of institutional organs and pianos. When I first met Dan, he was a competitor…he and I were selling against each other. Years later, he made some career changes, he and I became friends and even worked together on some projects. 

Years later, he was involved in an industrial accident that resulted in crippling injuries. 

We shook hands, talked and laughed for a bit, before he finally allowed that he had one serious matter to discuss with me. That’s when he hit me with the confession that, in our early years, he had said some pretty nasty things about me. Well, that stuff happens in the sales business, especially when you’re competing over big-ticket items. 

Dan is a man of faith, and with tears, a quivering lip, he asked, “Will you forgive me?” 

Dan is 78, and I’m 87…two old men clasped hands and exchanged Christmas gifts in an empty church following a funeral service! His gift to me: asking for forgiveness (I was touched). My gift to him: granting forgiveness (he was blessed). What an unexpected, meaningful Christmas present! 

As you know, my life is now totally involved in working with the incarcerated, and the experience leads me to think about possible holiday gifts. All recipients may not appreciate this gift, but I think it is incredibly sensitive when a prisoner asks friends and families of victims for forgiveness. 

The loved ones of victims may not be willing to extend this gift, but I think it is incredibly touching when forgiveness is extended to someone guilty of a crime. 

The Apostle Paul took an even harder line on the topic, insisting that we forgive one another: “…as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do." 

A theologian from my own tradition says: 

"To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you."

- Lewis B. Smedes


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