Ok, they are not really ghosts, they are memories. But Charles Dicken’s tale, A Christmas Carol, is on my mind during this season and so “ghosts” is my nod to that classic Christmas story. Ironic – I’ve been writing about how Christmas is all about remembering even as I am flooded with memories of my own from Christmases past. These are particularly precious memories because I can’t go “home” anymore for Christmas as my parents no longer live on this earth. So I treasure these “ghosts of Advents past” – they bring me comfort when they come to mind.
My mom definitely pulled off the total transformation thing well. Our tiny house was transformed during the month of December from the mundane of the everyday to the marvelous of all things Christmas. The live Christmas tree reached to the ceiling and filled up the living room with its size and its scent. The whole house smelled of fresh pine mingled with the scent of the silver spray that Mom used on all the greenery before she decorated the mantle with the pine branches, making some of them into a huge wreath which hung above the mantle. Eventually the scent of baking cookies was added to the outdoorsy pine smell, signaling Christmas was getting closer.
One of my favorite Christmas memories is that of glass wax, stencils and the glass panes of the two kitchen doors. My sisters and I were allowed to decorate the kitchen door windows by taping the stencils to the windows and then applying the glass wax with sponges. The “Merry Christmas” stencil went in the top pane of each door and the rest was up to us, whether a wreath, a tree, candy canes or my favorite, the Nativity scene. It was also the hardest to do because it had more figures and they were smaller than the larger wreath or tree. Being the oldest, the Nativity usually fell to me to do. This is one of those memories that cannot be relived because they don’t make glass wax anymore. Don’t know why but no one ever asked my opinion before deciding that there was no longer a need for glass wax.
Fortunately, Christmas is more than glass wax stencils and a decorated tree. As a very small child it was exciting to find presents under the tree on Christmas morning. However, I soon figured out that it wasn’t Santa but my parents who ate the cookies we had left by the fireplace and my parents who provided the presents. Christmas did not lose its luster when I acquired this new knowledge though. Much activity and man made tradition have been added to the celebration of Christmas over the years. But the miracle of Christmas remains unchanged and has remained unchanged for me personally as well. As Santa and elves and reindeer and trees and toys and cookies have receded into the background, growing less important with the passage of time – so the memory of the birth of God’s Son, the Savior of the world, has only grown brighter, more important as my child sized view of the world gave way to understanding the enormity, the miracle of the birth of the Christ child – God with us – Immanuel.
“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
God hadn’t hung out with humans since Adam and Eve in the Garden before sin entered in and separated us from our Holy Creator God. No remedy had been found for our sin. No rules could redeem us. We couldn’t keep the ten commandments if our very lives depended upon it – which they did. But as it turns out – “There is no one righteous, no not one.” (Romans 3:10) We couldn’t fix our sin problem ourselves. We were estranged from our Creator and without hope – BUT GOD! God had a plan and He made us a promise through His prophets. This was actually foreshadowed in Genesis 22:7-8, as Abraham headed up the mountain with his son, Isaac, whom he was preparing to sacrifice as God had instructed him to do. Isaac asked his dad a really important question and received this equally important answer from Abraham –
” ‘The fire and wood are here,’ Isaac said, ‘but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’ Abraham answered, ‘God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.’ ”
And God did provide the needed sacrificial offering for sins that day on the mountain. “Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns.” (Genesis 22:13) Centuries later, God again would Himself provide the sacrificial lamb for me and for you and for all mankind – His only Son, Jesus Christ.
“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.”(1 Peter 1:18-20)
That is the unfathomable miracle we celebrate at Christmas – God’s provision of the perfect, permanent, all sufficient sacrifice for all of our sins in the person of Jesus Christ. The fact that our eternal Creator entered into our physical, temporal world as a baby and walked several miles in our human shoes before going to the cross as our perfect atonement, makes that moment in human history when Jesus was born all the more miraculous, all the more worthy of our annual remembrance and celebration. I never want to forget to what great links my Heavenly Father went to redeem my life. When I forget, doubt enters in and hope exits. When I forget, the magnitude of His great sacrifice, I forget to be grateful for all God’s good gifts beginning with His gift of His only Son.
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have One who has been tempted in every way, just as we – yet was without sin.” (Hebrews 4:14-15)
“Who, (Jesus) being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8)
That’s what I remember and celebrate at Christmas – God provided the sacrifice by coming Himself in the flesh to walk in my human shoes before dying in my place and rising again, defeating death and offering me eternal life with Him. The gift of Christmas has been given. The question is – will I receive it? Will I receive what God is offering? Jesus says,
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20)
“Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is He, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty – He is the King of glory.” (Psalm 24:7-10)
Advent – open the door, lift up the gates, “let every heart prepare Him room” – the King has come! the King is coming!
sincerely, Grace Day