"...He will yet fill your mouth with laughter." (Job 8:21)
For most of us, Christmas is a time of memories. Like ornaments and tinsel, we pull our favorites out of storage, dust them off, and hang them on the tree of our hearts and minds. I'm fortunate, Christmas has always been a joyous and happy time for me.
It's been stated that a perfect memory can be ruined if attempted to be put into words. As I reminisce of Christmas' past, I'm confronted with that truth. Many of the 55+ Christmases past are absent from my cerebral archives and have become somewhat fuzzy. They have shrunk like a well-used bar of soap, deformed, weaker scented, and harder to hold on to. I even had to call my sister Connie--the renowned authority of Dennis' Christmas past memorabilia--for clarification and confirmation of the facts. She has alluded that perhaps my recollection was 'selective.'
Perhaps, but it got me thinking, Sometimes selective memory is not such a bad thing. We all have memories of Christmas, but not all of our memories are mistletoe and eggnog, nor love and good cheer. Our memories tend to be a mixture of random experiences confined within the seasons of time. Combined memories of loneliness and companionship, heartbreak and happiness, poverty and richness, and certainly moments of crying and laughter are the ornaments that hang on our hearts this time of year.
Luke's Gospel account of Christ's birth is an example. You don't have to dig very deep under the warmth of a starry night and the joy of a Savior's birth to reveal the oppressive requirements of government, inconvenience of travel, the awkwardness of less than ideal lodgings, and the embarrassment of a questionable situation (divinely conceived? a virgin birth?) coped with by Mary and Joseph long ago. But after Simeon pronounced his eyes had been upon the "Lord's Christ, and Salvation," I doubt they remembered their troubles, but chose to only "marvel at their blessing" (Luke 2:21-39). Good or bad, we too have the choice of which memory ornaments to carefully select and remove from storage to display and muse upon at Christmas.
My choice? My grandfather's laugh. The year is 1971. It was the last Christmas we were to spend with him before his passing the next fall. I don't remember many of the Christmas gifts we received over the years, but I do remember that year because we received a tape recorder. It was one of those new--compact--state of the art cassette recorders that weighted about 8 pounds and was the size of a briefcase. (You can almost see it in the picture above). Anyway, Christmas afternoon we all sat around the kitchen table playing some game (which game is disputed and currently under the auspices of family litigation) with the new tape recorder turned on and recording the whole event.
Now...the Dennis clan loves to play games. Rarely do we get together without playing something, and we always have a good time at it. What made this time different however, is that it was recorded, and though I haven't seen or heard the cassette recording in 46 years, (it's location is under litigation as well) its contents are one of my most cherished memory ornaments. I recall few, if any of the words recorded that Christmas day long ago, but I still hear my grandfather laughing...and laughing...and laughing.
Ultimately, we have the choice of which memories we choose to dwell on. Each Christmas, the memory of my grandfather is brought back over and over again. His laugh is etched onto my heart with a yearning that the memory will somehow fulfill itself and become flesh. I can envision my grandfather, whose absence I perhaps subconsciously still feel after all these years, will step through the door, sit down at the kitchen table, pick up his cards, glance at them, and once again laugh and say: "Sorry Denny Boy, I didn't means to keep you waiting so long."
I believe the reason we like Christmas memories so much is because they direct our thoughts towards wish fulfillment--something deeper we all subconsciously long for ourselves. That's what Christmas is you know...wish fulfillment; God's wish for mankind to be reconciled to Him, and our wish for simply something more.
"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us" Scripture tells us in John 1, and if we remember that truth and dwell securely in the fellowship of Christ, we are promised something more...the greatest gift...eternal life and the presence of His Spirit today. Reminisce on that. Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it.
That promise tells me there will be a day when there will be no bad memories, when all wrongs will be made right, and our souls will find the contentment we wish for. On that day in the future, I will sit down again at another table--Christ's table. He will be there; my grandfather will be there; I pray that you will be there as well. Maybe we will eat, maybe even play a game or two. One thing I am sure of however...we will laugh...a lot.