The Ghosts of Christmas Past

I am haunted by the ghosts of Christmas past. 

This theme of course is taken from great world renown classic, A Christmas Carol, where our old friend Ebenezer Scrooge is visited on Christmas Eve by three apparitions. The story has been told and retold with different spins in terms of setting and time. I of course think the absolute best film version ever done is the 1984 made for television version starring George C. Scott as Scrooge. Scott was not only masterful in the role, but I cannot think of a “weak” performance by a single cast member. I saw it on TV in 1984 when it first aired on December 17th.  I think it was a few years later it aired again, and I recorded it on the old VCR tapes of the day. It was grainy, wavy, and included commercials, but I taped it and thus began the McIntosh family tradition of watching it every Christmas Eve. In a few years, I purchased a professional VHS copy…then a CD version…then a blue ray version which we have now used the last several years. The movie has made a lot of money off me!

Of the three ghosts, my favorite (in concept if not in story line) is the ghost of Christmas past.  The ghost of Christmas present is gregarious, celebratory, outgoing, and loud. And of course, the ghost of Christmas future is foreboding and…according to some of my grands…scary.  But the ghost of Christmas past gets me where I live. I’m a sucker for nostalgia, traveling back, and lingering long at the fountain of memories.

I can think of three perfect Christmas mornings in my life in terms of “atmosphere”. Each of them had to do with snow coming just in time to have a white Christmas. It has happened twice in this century; once back around 2004 or so when we went to bed looking at browning lawns and dull grey landscapes only to wake up Christmas Morning to several inches of freshly fallen snow.  It was great. I remember taking the kids over to Greenmead to walk the nature trail. We were the first to put footprints in that freshly fallen snow. The last time was when Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday a few years ago and we had the Candlelight Christmas Eve service on Sunday morning during worship time. My whole family was here at that time and I remember we had the largest attendance Berean has ever had (623) that morning. Just as we were leaving the church that Sunday morning, the snow started to fall, and several inches fell overnight. Magical.

I remember many, many special Christmas memories that cannot be shared in this short space. But all of us can think back, via the ghosts of Christmas past, and immerse ourselves in the warmth of those memories. There was the Christmas Eve when Michal and our then family of three children, went down to Warren for the Cummins’ family Christmas while I had to stay at the church and prepare for our Christmas Eve service. I spent the entire day working on my message for that night, setting up all the candles and decorations for the service, and even shoveling the sidewalks from a rather deep snow that had fallen the day before. Then I went home to shower and dress for the service. At the service I had to lead the singing, read the Scripture, served as the “special music” (O Holy Night; in a small country church, you do what you have to do), and then preached the message. I worked 12 hours that day.  Ghosts of Christmas past.

I am haunted by the memories of past traditional observances with our kids that have now gone by the wayside because, as it should be, they have families of their own now and traditions they are establishing. But I miss some of those traditions, like all the kids standing at the bottom of the stairs and having to sing “Joy to the World” and “We Wish you a Merry Christmas” before they could come up to begin the reverie. Ghosts of Christmas past.

But apart from all the warm and pleasant ghosts of Christmas past, there are some of those ghosts that are heart wrenching.  One such ghost for us is the memory of our little Ellory Mae whom we lost late in Michal’s pregnancy very close to Christmas in 1988.  A tiny casket on a cold December day was one of the hardest experiences we have known.  We have a Christmas ornament with her name on it along with the five other siblings that we never got to hold. Many in our church this year are experiencing their first Christmas without a parent or other loved one.  Ghosts of Christmas past flit about in their memories, I am sure.

But there is one other ghost of Christmas past that visits me.  It is the memory of all the people who at one time called me pastor, lived and served in the church, and professed love for Jesus, who are no longer found anywhere near the church or Christ. You know them too, don’t you? They are those with whom you prayed, served, fellowshipped, and worshiped at one time who, this Christmas season, are found in the soiled folds of the world. I sadly can look back on 40 plus years…from Gibraltar, to Columbiaville, to Walled Lake, to here at Berean, and can think of those who in Christmases past were among us professing love and fealty to Christ. But now…they are mere ghosts.

I am haunted by the ghosts of Christmas past. Christmas is meant to be a joyous time and it largely is. Most of the ghosts that visit us during this season bring pleasant thoughts and warm feelings. But let us remember that with all sweetness there is a little bitterness as well. Perhaps you know of one who needs a visit, a word, a card, an encouragement from a ghost of Christmas past. Perhaps you could be that kindhearted yet conscience penetrating apparition in their lives. What a Merry Christmas that would make!

To all, I wish you a very Merry CHRISTmas. May the ghosts of Christmas past visit you.

Terry

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