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Published: December 20, 2012

DEAR DR. GRAHAM: My extended family is showing up for dinner this Christmas, and I'm really dreading it — not because of the work, but because some of them are very hard to get along with. Should we just be gracious and pretend everything is OK, or should we confront them if they start getting out of hand?

Mrs. N.C.C.

DEAR MRS. N.C.C.: Instead of seeing this as a problem, why not ask God to help you see it as an opportunity — an opportunity to bring your family closer together? The Bible tells us to “follow the way of love” (1 Corinthians 14:1).

How might you do this? One way would be to do all you can to include others in your planning and preparation — even some who normally aren't included. Maybe you could ask that troublesome aunt to bring a favorite recipe; perhaps that difficult brother-in-law could be put in charge of seeing that everyone is offered an appetizer. You'll have your own suggestions, of course; the main thing is to make everyone feel welcome. Take to heart the Bible's admonition to “practice hospitality” (Romans 12:13).

Then pray about this gathering, asking God in advance to defuse any potential problems and hurt feelings, and to make it a time of peace and joy. In addition, begin your meal with a prayer (even if you never have before), thanking God not only for the food He has provided, but also for the privilege of being together as a family.

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