I am not a big fan of chalk boards, and never have been. I don't like how you can be writing and suddenly, the chalk breaks and your fingers slip and slide across the board making an eerie screeching sound that hurts my teeth. I am also not a fan of chalk dust. It gets everywhere and makes you sneeze! When I was in elementary school, one of the chores assigned each day was cleaning erasers. I did everything I could not to have to do that job. (And that is saying a lot, because our elementary school had an eraser cleaner in the custodian's office, so we would get to leave the classroom when it was our turn!)

There is one thing I really like about a board you can write on like these, and that is that the writing isn't permanent. It can easily be wiped off, creating a clean slate, if you will. No matter how many doodles or mistakes are made, you can start over just by wiping it off. Maybe you could call it a do-over.

The church calendar starts over beginning on the first Sunday of Advent. It is at this time we begin preparations for a baby—Emmanuel—to be born among us. A baby whose birth, life, death and resurrection, wipes off the old and brings the new, creating in us a clean slate, a new beginning, an opportunity to start over. This new beginning is possible only through forgiveness. When we forgive someone for hurting us, we are offering them a clean slate, an opportunity to wipe the mistake away and start over. We don't have to forget what they did, and sometimes we shouldn't forget, but a clean slate offers us endless possibilities to start over. The same thing happens when others forgive us for hurting them. And sometimes that forgiveness needs to be toward ourselves.

Forgiveness is not easy, but it is necessary. When you write all over a chalk board and don't erase anything, before long it gets hard to read, and looks like a big mess. When we hold anger and grudges within ourselves, the same thing happens. Those feelings get all tangled up and pretty soon you aren't able to tell where one hurt ends and an opportunity for a clean slate begins. Our anger clouds our vision, it puts physical stress on our bodies, and if held in too long, has a tendency to come out in very ugly ways. A wise person recently told me that our society has normalized anger, giving people permission to be angry about anything and everything. I wonder what would happen if we learned to offer forgiveness as the Bible instructs us to……

"Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a  grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." - Colossians 3:13

So watch yourselves. "If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying 'I repent,' you must forgive them." - Luke 17:3-4

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." - Ephesians 4:31-32

"This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." - Matthew 26:28

As we journey through the end of one year and into yet another new year, where in your life do you need to create a clean slate through offering, or asking for, forgiveness? How would you feel, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, to have the opportunity to begin all over? With God, that opportunity is always present, and it is my prayer that you will extend that opportunity to those around you. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Always Peace ~ Pastor Heidi