The hallway was long enough to get a good run going before I ran into the living room. I had already been up three or four times since 4:00 AM and been told to go back to bed until at least seven. The last couple of times, I just stuck my head in the door and looked at the clock next to my parent’s bed. Finally, I heard my parents moving around to get up. Of course, it was easy to hear them, I was sitting in the hallway outside the door watching the clock. And I ran, straight to the tree in the living room; straight to the presents. As the years went on, the run became a fast walk, then an easy stroll, and finally, just a few steps. By the time I got into high school, the distance from my room to the living room was little more than half a dozen steps. For a child that stretch of carpet and drywall felt like forever; as a young man, it almost felt confining.
There is something about our sense of time, place, and memory that alters history. We remember things in an idealized fashion and with a certain slant toward what we feel or want to feel in the memory. The word we use is nostalgia or literally ‘the pain of returning home.’ We are looking back at things with the feeling that they were good in that moment and we wish we could find a way to return and this causes us a bit of pain to go with the wistfulness.
For many of us, Christmas memories—for that matter memories in general—are like that; they put us in a frame of mind to want to return to a time and place that had great meaning for us. The problem is, we can’t. No amount of wishing for what was will bring it back. We have the memory and that is what we carry with us. The other problem is that we miss the present. Looking back often keeps us from seeing what is in front of us. For those lost in nostalgia, the people who are in the here and now and need us to be part of their lives in the present, are ignored for the memory of someone long gone. Am I saying we should forget? Far from it. The memory and meaning of those people and those moments are a part of us and could never really be forgotten. What I am saying is, remember the good things of the past, learn from them, but live in the now.
In John 9, Jesus was talking about healing the blind beggar and said, “We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work. But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:4-5). Living in the now is recognizing that we only have a certain amount of time allotted to us to be little lights and do the Kingdom work we were sent to do. Living in the now is recognizing the good in who and what is around us. It is loving, supporting, caring for those who with us now. It is honoring the good in what was by continuing to do the good that we know to do. It is carrying the memory of yesterday with us while we work and move forward today. Remembering is good, even necessary I would say, but trying to live in the memory isn’t. Be the light in the now; and in doing so, make some new good memories to return home to later.