All around the world there will be families celebrating Christmas. A global celebration, of sorts. A time when families come together to eat, drink and be merry, children open gifts from Santa Claus, and peace on earth reigns. Well, not quite! It’s a lovely thought, but life isn’t a Hallmark Christmas movie!
Recently I was listening to a spiritual radio call-in program and the host was talking with a caller who was trapped by memories of her past. The woman’s story wasn’t unlike many of ours in that she had been the product of a dysfunctional family, and then dragged the dysfunction into a marriage that ended poorly. Now she was lost in a vortex of misery and confusion trying to figure out who she was and her purpose in life. Clearly, she needed to move on, but couldn’t seem to see the patterns in her life generated by fears that continually led to negative outcomes. The host listened, asked a couple of questions and then said, “We cannot walk into our future until we have left the past behind.” A profoundly simple statement and the reason many of us are “stuck” on the gerbil wheel of disappointment and failure.
As sentient spirit beings having a human experience we needn’t stay bound to our pasts. When we continually look backward it is impossible to be in the now and visualize a future. Why do we put ourselves through the misery? It’s almost a form of self-punishment. The past has passed, nothing can be done to change one second of our past, so why dwell on it, and I don’t say that lightly. So what if the past wasn’t something you did, rather was done to you? Same difference. It is unfortunate, unequivocally wrong, for anyone to willfully inflict emotional or physical pain on others, and yet the outcome is the same; nothing can be done to change the the outcome or the pain. Our efforts need to be concentrated on things we can change. We can change the reality we currently live in, and in turn, change our future. To live bound to the past means we willingly give control of our lives, in other words our power, to the people and situations we were living with or in at the time. Changing current reality involves carefully listening to our thoughts and words; these thoughts and words are the chains holding us captive.
Every person, event and situation in our lives is a learning experience; nothing more, nothing less. Journey with the Divine to higher spiritual awareness involves growing, and sometimes the growing process is painful. We are challenged to learn from the people, events, situations and, yes, even the pain, but we are not compelled to drag them behind us like balls and chains. The knowledge and wisdom gained is meant to provide the foundation for our present, and tools to manifest a more positive future. It’s not easy, nothing worthwhile is.
One of my favorite Christmas movies is Charles Dickens’, A Christmas Carol, particularly the 1951 black and white version starring Alistair Sims. Scrooge is a miserly, miserable old man who despises Christmas until he is visited by the spirit of his deceased business partner destined to roam the earth forever for his wicked ways. Ghost Marley warns Scrooge of his fate should he continue to be miserly, consumed with money, and detached from others. Three spirits would visit that very night, Marley warned, affording Scrooge one final chance at redemption; the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.
The Ghost of Christmas Past reminds Scrooge of his young years. As a child, Scrooge was sent to boarding school, abandoned by his family, and spent his childhood Christmases alone. Grown-up Scrooge chanced love with Belle who, seeing his obsession for money taking first place in his heart, ended their engagement on Christmas Eve. Apparently, Belle was the straw that broke his back. From then on he despised Christmas, the celebrations, the merriment, and the money spent on what he considered frivolous. He was mean-spirited to everyone, not caring a wit for his employee, Bob Cratchit, Bob’s sickly son “Tiny Tim”, nor his nephew Fred, the only child of Scrooge’s one sibling who is now deceased. Enter the three spirits.
The Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge back to his childhood to witness the loneliness experienced at the boarding school during the holidays, and to revisit the scene when his beloved sister Fran comes to get Scrooge and bring him home because their father has had a change of heart and wants to reunite with his son. Finally, he will witness Belle, his once-betrothed, breaking off their engagement on Christmas Eve, followed by an older Belle with her husband concerned for Scrooge’s consuming hatred for all things except money. Each stop along his past begins to soften his hardened heart. Safely back in bed Scrooge awaits the next ghost.
The Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge that money isn’t everything. People are blessed to have family, a meager feast and warmth. Even the Cratchit’s are thankful for the little they have and their time together. Tiny Tim, despite his infirmity, unselfishly asks God’s blessings on others, “A Merry Christmas to us all; God bless us every one.” The ice thaws a bit more in Scrooge’s heart. In its own way, the second Ghost teaches Scrooge the lesson The Grinch Who Stole Christmas learned when he attempted to stop Christmas from coming to Whoville by stealing all of the trappings of the holiday, not realizing the meaning of Christmas has little to do with the material world.
The third and final ghost, the Ghost of Christmas Yet-to-Come remains silent, yet the message comes through loud and clear. The future for all of us is dependent upon choices we make in the present. Each of us has the opportunity to change the course of our future, or remain trapped in misery. The Ghost appears as a Grim Reaper-like character. The first scene is that of a funeral where some local businessmen are making light of the deceased and crude comments about the unlikelihood of anyone giving a care. Scrooge feels some degree of empathy for the dead and asks the Ghost to show someone who is grieved because of the passing of another human life. He is shown the Cratchit family mourning the loss of the beloved Tiny Tim. The final scene is a lonely, overgrown graveyard where Scrooge learns the identity of the dead; to his horror it is Scrooge himself. Overwhelmed by the revelations of the Ghost of Christmas-Yet-to-Come, Scrooge begs the Ghost for another chance to change the course of his life away from the path he has trod so many years. Kind of makes one feel sorry for him. The story ends with Scrooge having made a complete 180 in attitude, grateful for the redemptive opportunity.
It isn’t likely ghosts will visit any of us, but the point is Scrooge learned only he could change his future. Dickens’ was telling a story, yet we have the very same opportunity in our lives. Change is often difficult and painful. Most of us would rather stay trapped in a familiar cycle of misery than chance the possibility our lives could change course. Why? One word: fear. We fear the unknown. Change involves twists and turns in the path and the twists and turns can frighten us.
Scrooge recognized his love of money and hatred of Christmas and ultimately people, all resulting in a cold heart. There was a definite pattern in his life of getting knocked down, and in response, hardening his heart a bit more. His core issue was fear of rejection and his response to rejection was to reject others first. Realizing it was his last chance Scrooge opted to look past the fear, put people above money, and reach out in love. There was no guarantee any would accept his offer given his past, only possibility existed. He didn’t stop to analyze, “what if they reject me again, then what?”, he just forged ahead.
We like stories to end on a positive note and Scrooge’s story did. He overcame fear of rejection and found acceptance and love on the other side.
Christmas, for many, is a time of renewal as we anticipate the upcoming new year that follows. Are fears in your life hindering growth, keeping you trapped, and robbing you of a full life? Set the intention in your heart to overcome a fear, and journey into the new year with thoughts and words to change the fear to possibility. Merry Christmas, and in the words of Tiny Tim, “God bless us all…..”