There is no more evocative time of year than Christmas. All our senses are stimulated, creating impressions that remain with us and are awakened from dormancy each succeeding Christmas time. My favourite, best present ever was the Meccano set No 6 that I got when I was 9. I can still vividly remember the thrill of opening it and starting to play with it. From another stage in my life I have strong memories of carol singing around Teesdale villages on cold, wet December evenings, feeling so alive and enjoying the company of my fellow carollers as we sang Sweet Chiming Christmas Bells for the umpteenth time!
I also have strong memories of Christmas 1981. Christine and I had been married 8 months, but we had only just moved into the farmhouse that was to be our home for the next 15 years. The day after we moved in it snowed….and snowed…..and snowed until our lane was impassable. We managed to get the Land Rover down to the main road across the fields but it was impossible to get it back up to the house. Over that Christmas period every present we gave had to be carried down the lane and every present we received had to be carried up. Part of my remembering is a passionate dislike of snow!
I wish you well with your remembering this Christmas time. I hope you find great joy in happy memories and deep solace in more painful recollections. For us, as a family, this Christmas time is going to be a struggle. Last year we were just numb with shock and too immersed in the process of grieving for Christine to be able to feel anything beyond the task in hand, which was survival. This year I expect the memories of Christmases shared when our family was complete will be painful and poignant as we constantly remember the one who is missing.
But remembering is a continuous process. This Christmas, memories will be recalled at the same time as other memories are being created for the future. This will be Asher’s first Christmas, Christine’s first grandson. I can imagine us next year saying, ‘Do you remember what Asher was like last year?’ The only way we can be comfortable with the sadness that some memories bring is to allow new memories to be created. The old ones are always there but the new ones keep us going, encourage us to keep moving, searching for the way forward.
It was to a people of long memories that Jesus came as the Word of God incarnate, speaking peace and salvation into a troubled world. They were remembering the glory days of their nation’s past and reflecting on the misery of occupation and subjection. There was a mood of despondency and despair, shattered dreams and troublesome memories. And so we read that, ‘He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.’ (John 1:11). A preoccupation with painful memories prevented the acceptance of a new beginning. In Jesus God was doing something new. New memories were being created, the future was opening up, a new age was dawning; at least for those who could sense it.
Christmas is an evocative time, a time when memories are very powerful, but it is also a time of great creativity as we celebrate a new beginning when, ‘The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.’ (John 1:9)
May I wish you a blessed Christmas and pray that in 2015 new memories will be created for the future.
Grace and Peace