I have several memories of the holiday
season growing up as a kid and as a matter of fact many of them often show up
right around now. Often we want to avoid or run from those memories and we find
a way of escape to deal with the pain of memories of the past. The memory of
not having much when I was a kid often shows up. The holiday season has this
way of creeping up, reminding you of all of the things you don’t have. Our kids
often remind us of the things they’d love to have. (If I hear the words,
"XBOX" 360 again, I will spew) Growing up there was always that fear
of not having a place to live. When I was in high school there were times I
moved around from one person’s house to another. There’s even the memory of my
parents not being able to provide for us when we were kids. Those fears arise
sometimes when you have to decide which bill you have to pay or not pay,
"student loans," or "car payment?"
How do you deal with the painful memories of
holidays past? How do you move to a place of letting go, grasping hope, and
receiving the strength God give to us as his children? And how do you as a
parent help your kids come to a place of gratefulness? When it comes to the
later of teaching our kids to not expect much, but to be grateful for what God
has blessed us with, I feel we’ve done pretty well. I’ve also become aware of
the responsibility and call as parents to help our kids come to peace with what
the Lord has blessed them with and to help them give thanks for what they have,
even in the midst of combating consumerism and this "xbox obsession."
When it comes to the painful memories of past holidays like Christmas, I’ve
learned to let the Lord walk with me in the midst of the painful memories, and
to trust that he isn’t done with his work of molding and the reshaping of my
heart. I’ve learned two things in dealing with the painful memories from
holidays past, two ways that I believe are helpful in placing our focus onto
the Christ child during this season of advent.
1. Let the body of Christ be your
strength. I remember one
Christmas Eve growing up when I went with a bunch of friends from my church,
out for dessert after a Christmas Eve service. Although, the realization of not
having some kind of family to go home to that night, who would celebrate
Christmas and the birth of Christ, or at least do something together as a
family, was somewhat painful, being with my friends, my church, the ones who
loved me, and being with people who had the same purpose in celebrating the
birth of Jesus was what gave me strength and hope to deal with the hard stuff,
the spew of life. Paul’s words from Hebrews
10:24-25 speak to me clearly about the body of Christ being the place where
we as followers of Christ can find the strength from those around us, within
the hope found in living in Christian community. In this life giving community,
we find the strength to move through the chaos and the painful memories that
arise during the holiday season.
2. Letting go and grasping the hands
of God allows us to move through the pain. Easier said than done. I find myself often thinking
about the what ifs? What if my mother never died? What if I could have
spoken words of truth to her, hoping she would accept Christ? What if my
brother never died? What if I can’t or won’t be able to provide for my family?
I can dwell on these what ifs or I can move to a place of letting go.
In Henri Nouwen’s book, Turn My Mourning
into Dancing, he describes the trapeze artist, and the need for the person
holding onto the crossbar, to be able to let go of the bar, to trust that
person’s partner on the receiving side, that he or she will be able to grasp
their hands to complete the act. (My paraphrase) I love this image. Letting go
is hard, but as followers of Christ, to allow and to grasp the hands of God
helps us to move freely through the pain. Knowing God holds onto us as his
children and takes us to the other side, where rest for the weary and healing
for the soul are ours, should give us some kind of peace in dealing with the
pain of the past.
Friends, if you find yourselves grasping
onto the memories of past holidays, let go of the pain that burdens you. Grasp
the hands of the maker, the giver of hope, who takes you to the other side
where our hearts are healed from the pain that burdens us and that takes our
eyes off of truly preparing for the coming of the baby king, and most of all
rejoice in your brokenness and let it be a testimony of God’s never ending love
and grace, a love that was shown to us in the gift of the Christ child.