Summary: Like Scrooge, we too can reclaim Christmas, with the help of the “spirits” of Christmas Past, Present, and Future

“The Spirits of Christmas”

“Bah, Humbug!” shouted Ebenezer Scrooge, using a mild Victorian form of profanity, meaning “nonsense” or “rubbish”. Charles Dickens depicted Scrooge as the epitome of all cynics hardened to the holiday spirit. Scrooge was stingy, selfish, and heartless. Later on Dr Seuss modeled the same qualities in the Grinch. Scrooge saw what he regarded as the unpleasant social demands of the holiday, and became critical of that which is holy. We degrade Christmas in more subtle ways by forgetting the sanctity of the season. Christmas has become a time of materialistic commerce, harried stress, and unreasonable expectations, but it doesn’t have to be. Scrooge’s cynicism was forever shaken by a nocturnal visit from 3 spirits, after which he became a changed man. We too can reclaim Christmas, with the help of the “spirits” of Christmas past, present, and future…

Christmas Past

When we lose sight of the Reason for the season, we need reminding that Christmas is the fulfillment of a promise--Micah 5:2 (one of many), “You Bethlehem Ephratha, are only a small village in Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from You, one whose origins are from the distant past.” There never was a more holy time than Christmas morning when our Savior was born. Everything we do this time of year refers back to Bethlehem. We may sing “Jingle Bells” and enjoy TV specials about Frosty the Snowman, but we know that Jesus is Who Christmas is all about. We don’t need a reminder from Jacob Marley.

During this season we recall our own past Christmases—the festive, joyful memories, along with the sad ones—they’re all are reminders of how Christmas touches us personally. There’s the Christmas Story, and our own stories. In my house, when we put up our tree, nearly every ornament tells a tale. We’ve collected ornaments from every place we’ve lived, and thanks to Uncle Sam, we’ve moved a lot! The images and traditions from our past help us to interpret the meaning of Christmas. This “baggage” however, can be troublesome if the memories are painful.

Darcie Sims tells why Christmas for her is “the hardest holiday”. Darcie is part of Compassionate Friends, a support group network of bereaved parents. Her son died and for her and her daughter Christmas Past means bittersweet memories. Darcie writes, “All those traditions that mean so much now lie broken and empty in my heart.” One Christmas she and her daughter just didn’t want to deal with the holiday any longer, so they dragged their tree out into a snow drift. It was then that they hit rock bottom. They wondered, “Have we lost love as well?” They decided to keep Christmas anyway, and went back out for their tree. It looked forlorn, a frozen stick of a tree waiting for the trashmen, but they returned it to their home. “With a mixture of tears and snowflakes”, Darcie writes, “we began to let the hurt out and make room for the healing to begin…we learned that love isn’t something you toss out, bury, pack away, or forget. Love isn’t something that ends with death.” Darcie saved a twig from that frozen tree to remind her of what she almost lost. That was the year she chose to let Christmas come back (from Bereavement Magazine).

Christmas is about pain—the anguish Jesus willingly chose by entering our world is what Christmas is about. We sing “Away in a Manger”, a beautiful song (in either of the 2 melodies) and we forget how our Lord was born in a smelly stable because no one in town was willing to accommodate a woman about to give birth. You’d think Mary and Joseph would have been bumped right to the top of the housing priority list—but no, they were relegated to the least hygienic place possible. Let’s say we could get permission to have our Christmas pageant at Richardson’s Dairy. Behind the ice cream stand and the miniature golf is a huge cow barn. What a re-enactment that would be! And can you imagine someone giving birth there? We’re used to spotless Birthing centers in sterile maternity wards, but not so the place where God-the-Son was born. And He endured this for us. Christmas past is a profound historical reality.

Christmas Present

Scrooge was too preoccupied with material issuess to appreciate the spiritual splendor of Christmas, which he considered a waste of time. He couldn’t be bothered with the celebration. With the crass commercialization of Christmas, it’s easy to get cynical. We have to intentionally look beyond what’s wrong about Christmas to see what’s right.

We may have remorse over past Christmases, but all we can do is to learn from them and make positive change for today. We can determine to welcome Christ into our hearts and homes. We can let Christmas joy make a difference in the way we relate to others. And we can communicate the real message of Christmas, that “the gift of God is eternal life through Christ our Lord”. We get so busy finding gifts for people that we think little of the Gift that is Christmas.

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