What is it about Christmas carols that invoke so many memories? Both good and bad, the memories of Christmas seem to be interwoven with the sound of Jingle Bells and Santa Claus is coming to town, and this time of year there is no shortage of the sound of Christmas carols. I like Christmas carols, even if the memories are not always good ones.
I remember the first Christmas without my grandfather. I remember sitting innocently around the fake fireplace shaking with excitement at the ‘motherload’ of Christmas presents under the tree. I can almost smell the turkey calling to me from the other room. All these memories, and more, are connected to individual Christmas carols, and all of them combined. It is no surprise that ‘early’ Christmas carols can invoke such a violent response from people who may not want to be taken back to past Christmas memories.
Our past is not always a pleasant memory, even for the most well adjusted of us. So, why am I blogging about Christmas memories when it is only November 19th? From my lanai I can hear the bells ringing from our host parish just two miles from my house, and although I am not there today since we are blessed with two priests who take turns leading the worship services, in my mind I am still rushed into the Cathedral with the sound of the bells. Just like Christmas carols, the sound of church bells invokes memories.
We often forget that God is always placing ‘memory triggers’ in our midst to bring us back to him. I think that is what St Paul is trying to do in his letter that we read today. By calling the minds of the Colossians to recall names from their past, he is brining their memory to the work of Christ and Church. In this way, they (and we) can be rushed into the Church, albeit figuratively, and be renewed in our commitment to Christ. Take a moment and read the passage.
Brethren, Aristarchos my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions -- if he comes to you, receive him), and Jesus who is called Justos. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me. Epaphras, who is one of yourselves, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always remembering you earnestly in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you. Give my greetings to the brethren at Laodicea, and Nympha and the church in her house. And when this letter has been read among you, have it read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you read also the letter from Laodicea. And say to Archippos, "See that you fulfill the ministry which you have received in the Lord." I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my fetters. Grace be with you. Amen. – Colossians 4.10-18
When it comes to Christmas preparations, one memory that most share is the memory of chaos. The memory of rushing around the mall to find the perfect present, the memory of circling the parking lot in search of a parking space on Christmas eve for that last gift purchase. The memory of “THE CRANBERRY!” that we forgot to put on the table. Then there is the greatest memory of sitting in the Church for Divine Liturgy with our loved ones and friends, hearing the hymns, smelling the incense, gazing at the Holy Icons. I bet if you tried, you can even ‘taste’ the Holy Communion right now.
These are all memory triggers that God has blessed you with to invite you back to Church. It may have been a while, or maybe you just want to ‘bump up’ your Church attendance this year. Either way, the memories of Christmas will help you get there, and I pray today’s blog helps too. After all, this blog is all about helping you LIVE A NEW LIFE IN CHRIST, not just once a year but every day.