Keeping Grace at the Holiday Table

When my husband and I would visit my parents, we liked to take bets about how long it would before my Dad would bring up the subject of the driverless car. After all, he was a transportation engineer for more than 3 decades, so he couldn’t help himself. It was fun for us to exchange knowing glances when the conversation really picked up steam, and Dad never disappointed. 

Time with family can be so fun.  It’s often predictable.  I have highlighted a pleasant, recurring theme in my family, but I definitely have some recurring behavior that I unleash when I’m with my family that isn’t so sweet or benign.  So often, we anticipate the holiday season with dread, due to the predictable nature of ourselves and our family.

As we prepare our hearts and minds for a season of celebration with family, let us prepare ourselves to extend grace at the holiday table.

1. Is your family predictable? I would argue that I can answer that question for you, and say yes. Ask the Lord to show you your patterns of behavior.  Spouses can help with this too, (But, be in the mood to hear it).  Is there a classic topic of conversation that is sure to come up that you find hurtful, offensive, accusatory, or baiting you for an argument?  It is quite possible that the person who brings up the topic means no harm, you just have a reaction that has become habitual.  Perhaps you have a knack for bringing up a subject that is hurtful to others.  Can you be vulnerable before the Lord and ask him to show that to you? Spend time in prayer, identify your triggers, and plan ahead to avoid any traps and resolve to respond with grace.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossian 4:6

2. Practice forgiveness.  Relationships, especially longstanding ones, almost always have a need for forgiveness.  Families weather storms such as divorce, health crises, and a host of events with lasting consequences.  Often, we can’t hide our sin from our families.  Someone at the holiday table is likely in desperate need of your forgiveness or you are in need of theirs.  Approach the table as a sinner forgiven much by God ready to extend that same forgiveness to others.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

3. Avoid the trap of comparison that threatens to steal your joy.  When the family gathers together, inevitably there are some who will seem more “successful” than others which is ever changing, depending on your definition of success.  You will most certainly miss out on a good time if you spend your holiday comparing yourself to others, whether you think highly of yourself or not. Instead, practice the art of celebrating what God is doing in your life and those around you.

 “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another…” Romans 12:15-16.    

With thoughtful preparation and reliance on the Holy Spirit, we can approach the holiday season and family gatherings with confidence.  This is a wonderful time to get a head start on your New Year’s Resolution by vowing to use family gatherings as a time of refreshment, encouragement and celebration by creating healthy, God-honoring habits for the future.

May your time spent around the table be as sweet as pie, flavored with fun, peppered with forgiveness and seasoned with grace.

Catharine Griffin was born and raised in Covington, Georgia. She earned an M.A. in Biblical Counseling from Dallas Theological Seminary in 2012. She enjoys mentoring and discipling college women and is currently doing so at East Texas Baptist University. She is passionate about hearing people's stories and helping people see their potential in Christ and serves this calling out as a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate. She has also been coordinating ministry to women for several years in various churches and longs to equip women to serve the church with biblically sound teaching. She is a mother to three boys, wife to a Baptist Student Minister, and enjoys teaching, writing, cooking and all things outside.