When it comes to relationships, Christmas can be one of the most difficult times of the year.... It's supposed to be a time with family, a time of being together, a time of giving, and a time of sharing. Maybe it's your daughter, your son, your grandchildren, and they refuse to come. And, once again the wound is open and made even worse.

When we think of Christmas, we think of family and friends. We think of getting together and having meals and festivities. The commercials on television all make Christmas look so wonderful, so magical. And yet Christmas can be a time when difficult relationships are just magnified. It's like a dark cloud comes into your life. It's like a blackness overcomes you and depression sets in.

Why? Because suddenly you see yourself as somebody who's all alone. You see yourself as somebody who's unloved. You remember all your broken relationships. You remember all the harsh words. You've put the invitation out for family to get together, and you wonder if they're going to even come. And if they come, what's it going to be like? Are they going to be kind to one another? Will they argue? They may come, but come grumbling about it.

It can be a time of year of great loneliness, great pain, and great stress. So what are you going to do differently this year? Begin by remembering that Christmas is all about receiving and giving the gift of love.

Think of Christmas and make it synonymous with the giving and receiving of love. Then what you need to focus on is how you will give the gift of love, not just to those that are lovely and loveable, but to those who aren't so lovely. There may be those you love who are full of anger, jealousy, and often are the ones who start the arguments. And you think, "Oh no! Not another time this year." What can you do?

In Ephesians chapter 4, it says "Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love" (Ephesians 4:1-2).

If at all possible, make the decision that this Christmas you are not going to react toward others according to what they do to you, but a responder to God. A responder to His command for you to love others even as Christ loved you (John 15:12).

If this is what Christmas is all about, then you and I need to "walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us..." (Ephesians 5:2). He's giving us the example. This verse is talking about walking in a Calvary kind of love. A love that says "not my will, but Yours." It's a love that is sacrificial. It's a love that is willing to go to the cross.

This is what God wants for us. This is what He wants for you right now. Beloved, He wants us to love with the love that He has for us. "If I speak with the tongues of men...angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal" (1 Corinthians 13:1). No matter what great act you have done, no matter how much you have given to the church, no matter how much time you have served as a deacon or as an elder, a teacher, an usher, if you don't have love, it's nothing. It's absolutely nothing. Why? Because Christmas, the birthday of the Son of God who was born to die for you and me, is all about love. It's about walking in this kind of love all year long.

In 1 Corinthians 13 we have a description of what love looks like. You may want to print out these verses from your computer or write them out. Read over these verses, study them, and then put them on your refrigerator. Memorize this passage of scripture, and begin walking in all that it commands you to do. This truly can help transform how you live.

The Excellence of Love
1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. 4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:1-13, NASB)

Take these principles, these precepts for life, that God has put down in His Word and ask God to help you walk daily in the real meaning of love during this Christmas season. Keep walking in them until it becomes a habit. Take no one for granted. Love them in new ways that might just surprise them. May the love of Christmas become a gift that lasts all year long!

Kay Arthur
Host, Precepts for Life
Co-CEO, Precept Ministries International