Let’s talk about the Ghost of Christmas past.
After arriving at Scrooge's house, the Ghost of Christmas Past takes his hand and they fly over London. We first visit a memory of Scrooge’s early years at his boarding school. We learn that he stayed there alone while his schoolmates returned to their homes for the Christmas holidays. The spirit then reminded Scrooge of the day when his beloved, deceased, younger sister Fan came to him after he repeatedly asked their cold, unloving father to allow his return home. Fran joyfully claimed their father had changed and was a kinder man than he ever was. Next, the spirit took Scrooge to a Christmas Eve years later in which he enjoyed a Christmas party hosted by his first boss, Mr. Fezziwig. Fezziwig was a kind and loving man who treated Scrooge like a son and was more compassionate to him than was his own father.
The spirit also revealed a tragic event that happened on Christmas Eve when his beloved fiancée Belle ended their relationship. Belle realized that Scrooge cared more for money than he did for her. Scrooge did not ask Belle to end their engagement but he did not fight for her or their relationship. Finally, the spirit revealed to him how she married and found true happiness with another man. After this vision, Scrooge pleaded with the spirit to show him no more, to which the spirit replied, "These are the shadows of things that have been. They are what they are, do not blame me!”
I’ve dramatically over simplified the Dickens’ classic. But, I wanted you to get an idea of how complex a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Past can be.
I believe our own Ghost of Christmas Past can visit this time of year awakening memories for us that have been asleep or pulling to the surface memories that have been buried for some time. Maybe you see a Facebook friend request from a grammar school friend or from someone you once had deep feelings for…even your first love. Memories and emotions are like clusters of grapes hanging on a vine, you cannot pull one grape without realizing they are all connected. One memory, one scent, one emotion and it’s like we can be right back there in the moment reliving it. Complicated.
This is a place for us to discover something about our spiritual formation. As Christ followers, we acknowledge the places where we were malformed in our previous lives and where we are under construction. Remember the point of our following Jesus is transformation. There is a painful reality when I turn on the light after I had been asleep. The light hurts, right? When the Light shines, we might be tempted to go back and erase our previous life. But, Jesus can use every previous experience to build something new and meaningful.
Spiritual giant Richard Rohr said this, "Pain that’s not transformed is transmitted.” We tend to throw our sorrow, anger, disappointment and failures onto others unless we meet each one of these experiences with a renewed sense of resurrection hope and holiness. We must accept the promise Jesus made to us when he said he could make all things new. Healing will come. We must allow the time healing requires. All of the past is somehow used by God in a foundational way. None of it is wasted. None of it forgotten. None of it is lost. But, all of it, appropriately understood through the work of the Holy Spirit, can become our message of hope for others. Our mess becomes Christ’s message. We cannot simply go back and erase our previous life or wishfully act as if it didn’t happen. Jesus Christ can work with us to accept it and transform it. So, the past has no hold on us. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever.
We read from the prophet Haggai this Sunday. Haggai’s voice is God’s voice calling people to remember the former days in Chapter Two. God also declared his promise and covenant was still at work. God reveals his plan to shake things up and for the people to be courageous and have no fear. No one really knew what or who the Messiah would be. That’s just like God, isn’t it? He knows when and how to reveal a plan with his purpose. We will learn more together about the timing of this well placed encouragement. Let me leave you with this: The God who began a good work in you will see it to completion. Let the past remain in the past. Let things really die. Let it go. It is only when we truly let it go we are released to accept what is new. Let your house be filled with glory.
“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty. Haggai 2:6-7