Throughout the years I have seen several different productions of “A Christmas Carol,” and one of the things I enjoy most is seeing how the three ghosts of Christmas (past, present, and yet to come) are portrayed by the different directors. There is plenty of room for creative expression when it comes to casting the characters of the three ghosts, and bringing them to life on the stage. You and I are the directors of our own Christmas stories each year. And we too, are allowed plenty of creative expression when it comes to how we will cast the ghosts of Christmas past, Christmas present and Christmas yet to come.
We are each visited by the ghosts of “Christmas past” this time of year. Some people have wonderful memories of Christmases past that fill their hearts. And yet, at the same time, these thoughts are often accompanied by sadness, as they realize what has passed will never be again. Others may be sad because of a hurt or sadness that happened during a bygone Christmas. Either way, a kind of grief can be a part of this season. Our grief, of course, goes hand and hand with our gratitude for the season and the celebration of the One that came to dwell amongst us.
There is also a version of “Christmas yet to come” that can create an unnecessary burden for us. With all the images of happy friends and families with perfectly decorated homes, it is easy to be fooled into thinking that everyone else is having the “perfect” Christmas experience, and unless we have the same we are being left out of this experience. Such thinking can lead us to look ahead to some future time when we, too, will be able to celebrate a “perfect” Christmas, where there will be more than enough money for presents, where everyone will get along perfectly, and all the preparations will be beautiful. Grieving over the past, or dreaming of some idealized future, are places where any of us can get stuck.
The key to not getting stuck in the past or the future, is to fully embrace “Christmas present.” We do this by “loving what is,” by fully entering into the delight–and perhaps the challenges–that this Christmas brings us. The One whose birth we celebrate is present in the best of times and the hardest of times, and isn’t that, after all, what the celebration of Christmas is all about?