Christmas Past“Objects in the rearview mirror are closer than they appear.” Our pasts are closer than they appear. The things they we have lived through and maybe put behind us are never that far away from us. Let’s talk about our pasts. Now I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to talk about my past, for a couple of reasons. First, there are things there that I don’t want to remember. I know what I’ve done, I know that some of them have not been good, and I would rather just leave them there, forget them, never bring them up again. What could the purpose be of bringing those things up. They will just bring back bad memories and pain, so therefore, I would be better off leaving them there, in the past.

Second, I don’t remember parts of my past that well. There are a couple of reasons for this, I think. First, my early childhood was scarred with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. Our brains are a wonderful thing, and because of the pain that I was in, my brain blocked many of my memories from my early childhood. Much of my early life is known only because of what I have been told. The other reason that I find it hard to talk about the past is because I don’t remember things the way they actually happened. I remember telling stories about when our daughters were born and every so often, I would look over at my wife. She would be shaking her head, so I knew I got it wrong. This also happens when we are out talking with friends or any other social gathering. I gauge my conversation by watching her as I talk, especially when it’s something that I don’t remember too well. She sets me straight. Know what I’m talking about?

You see, our memories are subject to our own bias, even though they are “our” memories. We remember what we want to. We will forget the pain in certain situations and remember only they really good things. Memories are hard to trust. They can be incomplete as we leave pieces of the picture out. They can be subjective where we only remember what we want to.

In “A Christmas Carol,” Scrooge is visited by the ghost of Christmas past and in the Disney version, this ghost is portrayed as a candle. It’s interesting to think of the ghost of Christmas past as a candle, shedding its light on the events of Scrooge’s past. He confronts both memories that are happy and those that bring him pain. He remembers his childhood friends, but also his isolation during school. He remembers working for Fezziwig who had a love of life and people and held many celebrations. During one of those celebrations, Scrooge met a woman who he fell in love with, only to watch her walk away when his love for money became stronger than his love for her. And here is where we find Scrooge beginning to realize some of his past mistakes. He wants the ghost to haunt him no longer. I love the way Disney portrays this scene as Scrooge gets angry with the ghost, the candle of light, and tries to cover the candle with the ghost’s hat. But Scrooge can’t hide the light, the light shines in the darkness, illumining his past. Showing him all of his mistakes as well triumphs.

We too have pasts. We too have triumphs as well as mistakes. Many times, we try not to remember the mistakes, we want to put them behind us and forget about them. They’re painful, they remind us what we’ve done. They remind us who we’ve done wrong to, who we haven’t loved, who we’ve turned our backs on, who we’ve hurt; physically or emotionally. Our pasts remind us who we are, and maybe, just maybe, that’s not who we want to be. So, we block it out, try to forget it. Let the past be the past.

Jesus calls the first disciples and we hear how they dropped what they were doing and followed Jesus. From what we hear, there were no second thoughts, no “let me get a few things from the house,” no “wait, I have to finish cleaning the fish for dinner, or mending this net for my father, or even let me go say goodbye to my mother.” They just left and followed Jesus. Jesus knew who these men were, he knew their faults, their problems, their attitudes; he knew their pasts. He called them anyway. Jesus doesn’t call the perfect, he perfects the called. He doesn’t look for those who would be vetted and found to be not guilty of any sin. He finds the ordinary, the flawed, the misunderstood, redeems them and uses ALL of them is this wonderful calling that he has.

Jesus also comes to redeem us, and it certainly came at a cost, his life. Jesus paid the ultimate price to redeem all of us. But remember, his redemption does not remain with our lives as they are today. His redemption goes all the way back. He redeems our past and by doing this, he is using all of our past experiences for his glory. All of those things that we keep trying to hide, he knows about, and he uses them in his calling for us. What do you have in your past that you might be trying to hide from God? What closets are hiding things in? What are those skeletons that you don’t want anyone else to know about? Jesus knows all about those doors, in fact, he is standing at those doors, and he’s knocking. He wants you to open those doors to him so that he can fully redeem them. Not just what you want to bring him on Sunday morning, he wants it all, including what’s behind those doors that no one has seen.

Scrooge was taken on a trip back in time to encounter or confront his past, and that’s the only way he can move forward. That’s the only way he can begin to understand how he became who he was in the present and begin to change his life. Some of you are facing those same situations. You want to move forward, you want to give your whole life to God, but there are things holding you back. Your past is holding you back. Today’s the day to confront your past, see all those things for what they really are, and allow Jesus to enter those areas of your life and redeem them. Let him take your past, your experiences, and use them for his glory. Offer up your past to him so that they will be a part of your salvation story and witness.