Lance column: Christmas past, present
Memories of Christmas’ past keep us company during the Advent season. More than a few seem to crowd our thinking. Maybe that’s a symptom of getting older or it’s just that those memories serve like my bifocals and helps me to keep the purpose of Christmas present in focus.
The memory that lingers at my mind’s doorstep takes me back to when I was a small boy living in western North Carolina. I attended a small church that sat upon the hilltop overlooking the Pleasant Grove community. During Christmas, the lighted windows bathed the houses below and on a winter December evening going up the hill to the little church you would have thought you were stepping into a Currier and Ives painting. The memory pushes me back on stage during the Christmas pageant. It was an unpolished, spontaneous church production … the carols were the same ones we sing today and the emphasis was on volume rather than pitch. Of course I can recall clutching the little index card where a few lines of the Christmas story fell upon me to recite. After the program was over, we received a bag of candy … which always had some a few pecans and an orange. I ,the other children and their families would slip back out into the December night… excited that our little production ushered in the big day!
What happens to us? We get older and the simple excitement and anticipation of Christmas alters into four weeks of anxiety, loneliness and regret?
Why do we convince ourselves that our children and grandchildren will be disappointed with the season if we fail to give them more than we received at their age? Do you ever allow those memories of past Christmas’ spoil your Christmas present? We tend to compare every Christmas to a bygone era forgetting the potential joy that lie in the memories we make today. Instead of relishing each experience leading up to Christmas…we think of each experience, each gathering, and each event as a prison sentence to be completed.
Maybe we spend too much time thinking about what Christmas used to be rather than finding the joy and meaning within the Christmas of today. Thinking of Christmases past is normal, but think about the people who surround you today. The homeless child, the missionary, and the widow who lives in the nursing home these and many more could benefit by giving the Christmas of today your fullest attention.
Christmas memories cloud our thinking when we always make ourselves the star of each recollection. Ever since the first Christmas, there has always been the temptation to make this celebration more about ourselves than the one whose birth we remember. “For unto us a son is born, for unto us a child is given….”
I enjoy revisiting Christmas’ past but I won’t linger there too long this season. There is a Christmas waiting for me to find…it’s as close as the God and the people who surround me. In them, you will find a Christmas worth remembering.
Dr. Kenneth Lance is pastor of First Baptist Church in Salisbury