Sunday, December 05, 2004

Past in the Present

At Christmas, like Mr. Ebeneezer Scrooge, I confront my past in the present. Each year, the rolling round of the season offers up another opportunity to explore memories peaceful and painful; to call up the person I was and to accept more fully the person I am becoming.
I have more than the average number of poignant, hilarious and even downright scarey Christmas memories, enough for a book. For most of my life, I was involved with an organization which is a Christmas icon, and it was this association which created the context in which I lived out my Christmases. In fact, for some years, I myself was a Christmas icon, receiving generous gifts for charity and listening to the reminiscence, praise, complaint, fear, longing, grief and expectation of those who lingered around my post. It was a valid thing to do at the time, and not without personal rewards. But it came to an end, and I moved on.
I hardly grieved the loss of Christmas, so eternally rooted for me in good works, Christmas concerts, baskets for the poor, Church suppers, carolling, carolling, carolling. But it was a loss. When I changed employment I was unable to sing a single Christmas carol. I was all sung out. Every tune seemed overfamiliar, every sentiment maudlin, overhyped and stale. I had worn out Christmas. I felt sceptical of the needy and fed up to the teeth with the rich. I, along with a huge segment of Western population, gave up the practice of communicating with friends at Christmas. I could barely cook a turkey. I started handing out cash instead of making ties, candles, wreaths, decorating potted plants and other trinkets as gifts. Christmas had become a very bad, very heavy thing to me. I was turning into Scrooge.
It is a relief now, fifteen years on, to look back and not be tired. Not that I want to recreate it all. I don't ever want to be that busy at Christmas again. But recently I've been able to sing again. I'm able to reclaim the best of my past, to celebrate it and honour it. "The Holly and the Ivy" has regained its celtic mystery laced with the deepest Christian symbolism. The Basque lullaby, "The Infant King", is touched again with simplicity, humanity, reality. "How far is it to Bethlehem?" glows with childlike hopefulness, the eager expectation of a new baby.
Perhaps it is that this year, at Christmas, we expect a new baby in our family. Perhaps I have opened my heart, just a little bit, to let in what is tenderest, most precious in my heritage. Perhaps I have accepted that it was not all bad, all those years of busyness. Indeed, much of it was jolly entertaining. Duty kills joy. Love revives joy. I look kindly at the past, and smile at my infant self, and hug the exhausted woman she became and celebrate the joyful woman she is becoming.
This is the thing about Scrooge...his last name being a Dickensian invention has come to symbolize meanspiritedness. But his first name...well that means, "up to this point God has guided us." Neat.
That means that nothing is lost. The past can be redeemed in the present. There are second chances and thirds and fourths. Looking at my life, I begin to see the hand of Creator God in all my past. No regrets now. Hey, Ebeneezer!


steph said...

Connie I celebrate with you, this wonderful amazing woman who is being unwrapped from packaging that was hiding the beauty of the gift within! I celebrate with you that joy, and the love that combines with it to be the awesome fragrance of this season, and that you will know the amazing colours of your heart that light up and give out love and joy.

neritia said...

Oh Connie, as I read your words your beautiful face comes into my mind and I can imagine you singing and dancing with joy!
....There are second chances and thirds and fourths....I needed so to read these words this morning. I am beginning to understand, for the first time, that there are second chances and more....I too am seeing that duty kills joy!
Funny how, all over the world we reflect on our lives during the moment I am so tired I cn't imagine getting to Christmas Day...yet, the thoughts and the memories comes naturally!
You've triggered an need in my heart today...a need to actively look for the Creator's hand in my past too!!!
Thank you for that!

magoo77 said...

I'm so glad you are coming into a place where you are able to look back at life and feel rewarded! All of your energy, time and excitement around the Christmas season has set the base of important family traditions.
As well, you have also found time to help others in need. This is truly a special gift. There is a lot to be thankful for this Christmas! Enjoy your fellowship and quiet time with family and friends. To new beginnings! Luv s

Anonymous said...

Connie - you take me from tears, to laughter, to His arms. How do you do that? I am so glad that you are blogging. You rock!

Anonymous said...

above from me - Anj - sorry for forgetting my name.