I sit here on my couch this last day of 2011 still listening to Christmas music and in front of a fully decorated tree. The truth is the tree will stay up for several more days, weeks, or even possibly months. I'm not ready to box everything up and call this holiday season over yet. I am ready for the toys I keep stepping on to be up off my floor and I'm ready for all the holiday snacks to disappear some place other than my mouth, but I'm not ready to say good-bye to the comfort twinkle lights and Bing Crosby bring me.
There is something about December that conjures feelings brought on by memories of Christmases past. One of my sweet aunts sent me a card today telling me about her holiday and how it was nice as she visited with her grandson she sees once a year. I know she was glad he came, but I could read the sadness in the lines she penned. These annual "obligatory" Christmas visits weren't what she wanted for the holidays, and they paled in comparison to the memories brought by the visitor who mingles both great joy and heartache together. Her dearly loved husband passed away years ago and she wrote of how much she missed him. Moving away from the east coast at the age of 19 my memories of him are more like snippets from a child's scrapbook. I see me shutting his hand in a car door, I see myself hiding in his closet playing a game of hide n' seek, I see a black-and-white photo of of him and my aunt standing alongside my mom and dad on their wedding day, and most importantly I see them smiling at one another as they took turns telling me about their trip to Ireland. My aunt's memories run much deeper and I imagine as the holidays approached the ghost of Christmases past presented himself with a bittersweet bow.
This year I was visited by a ghost as well. At first I didn't realize what it was, just a heaviness. I think the fact that there really weren't any deep-rooted memories with mine made it harder to identify. Then out of a sleep I awoke and realized this Christmas I should have been holding a sweet tiny newborn like the Mary from my nativity scene. How could this be? I was over this right? I dealt with my miscarriage months ago. I grieved, I had moved on...hadn't I? There was joy this Christmas, there was laughter, there were thankful hearts, but the tears over what was lost came once more and a grief sat on my heart over what could have been gained.
Unlike the classic story, A Christmas Carol, the ghosts that visited my aunt and I this Christmas past were welcome reminders. Reminders of what God highly regards. For my aunt - a love that lasted years, bringing comfort, provision, friendship, acceptance, and being a married woman myself, I know...forgiveness. An outstanding demonstration of covenant love. For me, an enduring love for a tiny baby that didn't love me back, the promise of eventual wholeness, a grand desire to reunite. Again, a demonstration of covenant love. That's what Christmas is, the start of the Covenant being fulfilled. God coming to meet the law we couldn't by sending his son, so one day we could be together, finally a family. In the interim, or at least for a few more weeks, I will sip some hot chocolate to "Winter Wonderland" enjoying my tree and friend a little while longer.