Rev. Clay Horton chooses to remember and cherish the past, but places his hope in the present and future. Read his thoughts and join us for Advent and Christmas worship and events. Click here to learn more.
"We've always done it like that."
Have you ever said those words? I know I have. The times I've said that, the unspoken, implied meaning is that I hope things remain the same. My hope is focused more on the past than it is on the present or the future.
When I think about past Christmases, I think about valuable time with family and lots of fun. The "ghost of my Christmas past" is pretty joy-filled and doesn't haunt me in a negative way. The ghost of Christmas past reminds me of my Christmas traditions. However, over the past 10 years, I've had to make sure that the ghost of Christmas past did not dictate how I viewed the present or the future. I'm still learning to hold traditions with an open hand, not clinching them too tightly because I know that if I do, I will not be able to live into new traditions or experience joy in the present moment.
When I married Errinne, my Christmas traditions changed as I started balancing Christmas with her family and mine. When we had children, our Christmas routines changed. When I started working at a church, and therefore serving on Christmas Eve, our Christmas traditions changed once again. Each church has different Christmas Eve schedules and for the past five years, my schedule has been a little different each year. I would be lying if I said that I hadn't considered the Christmas Eve obligations as I explored my call to ministry.
I write all that to say that the way I celebrate Christmas has been changing for the past 10 years while it had been relatively predictable for the first 23. But I am grateful for these changes and I am grateful that I did not let past memories hold me back from making new memories. I love new traditions with my in-laws. I of course love the new Christmas celebrations with my kids. I love serving on Christmas Eve in the church. It is one of the most special nights of the year and I feel blessed to be a part of the services and the hospitality our church provides to not only our members, but so many members of our community who find themselves at Trietsch for the first time. The ghost of Christmas present is so much more important than the ghost of Christmas past.
Regardless of whether the ghost of Christmas past brings joy-filled memories or sorrows, there is always the potential for that ghost to hold us back from living fully in the present. I think the same can be said about church traditions and experiences outside of just Christmas. We should acknowledge the memories, but not let them cloud our vision of the present nor the future.
My prayer for the universal church as well as its individual members is that we might be able to acknowledge the past. The ghosts remind us of failures and successes. We should learn from past mistakes and celebrate the victories. But I hope we don't stay in the past. Advent is a season of hope. Hope has no influence on the past, but it is crucial to both the future and the present. May we be people of hope this Advent season.
"But I will hope continually, and will praise you yet more and more."
- Psalm 71:14