I’ve been fighting nostalgia—haunted by the ghost of Christmas past when my daughter April was still here and I was often there, sipping tea and savoring her fellowship. On Christmas mornings I would drive down the long driveway to her and Rick’s Victorian farmhouse in time for pajama-clad grandkids to sleepily descend the stairs to open stockings, read the Christmas story, and then gather around the long oak table to savor strata and Martinellis.
Each of us, prompted by April, would share a praise for the gift of Immanuel. Laughter and good-natured humor, along with fragrant coffee, warmed the kitchen. After all the presents were opened and appreciated and I was ready to drive home, April would walk me arm-in-arm to my car, regardless of the weather.
But, since she left this year, as I held her hand on that morning in May, I’ve learned to beware nostalgia. It can quickly squash today’s joys and tomorrow’s hope. How quickly it grows from a cuddly kitten into a crouching tiger with claws and fangs.
How to overcome it? Mark Buchanan, in his book, Spiritual Rhythm, writes:
The past is actually only ever reconciled through four things: thankfulness, forgiveness, acceptance, and repentance.
Left unguarded, winsome wistfulness, rather than lighten our skies, darkens into the spirit of heaviness. When we longingly look back, even the dullest days develop a golden shine, with which no current joy can compete.
So, today, I declare a fresh start (much needed after too many cookies yesterday) and reset my mind and heart to joy in Jesus. Gratitude for God’s gifts of righteousness, peace, and joy overcomes circumstances, even those complicated by Covid and great loss.
I reapply the Lord’s counsel that came several years ago, after I spent months of mourning the departure of my husband Milt: “Look at what you have left.” And then, after many more days, “Look at what you have gained.”
Buchanan sheds light on my melancholy remembering:
Nostalgia is really misplaced anticipation...expectation in reverse. It’s our instinct for heaven rummaging in the storage closet, hoping that our heart’s true desire is in there somewhere, hidden amid a clutter of keepsakes and accumulated debris.
So today, I rebox my memories of Christmases long ago, along with 97% of the cookies and candy, to give to friends with children who can consume without consequences. My husband (of two Christmases) and I will attach our Christmas greetings to twenty-five bottles of Martinellis and deposit one on the doorstep of every neighbor (known and not yet known) on our street.
Mid-afternoon, when the danger of being ambushed by nostalgia heightens and the ghost of Christmas past slinks out of the shadows, I’ll brew a cup of tea and call one of my dear girlfriends for mutual encouragement and prayer. Above all, I will draw closer to Immanuel, who ever draws me close to Himself.