Getting rid of the old wrapping paper this Christmas

Published 2:58 pm Thursday, December 20, 2018


Life Matters

Who would want to keep all the torn-up wrappings and empty boxes left over from the presents you opened last Christmas?

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For families with several children, keeping all that paper and the boxes would occupy a considerable amount of space in the house. People don’t normally keep all that stuff; they trash or recycle it.

After all, if you kept all the gift paper and boxes each year, think of the mess you would have. You wouldn’t be able to open anything new because all the old would be in your way.

But I see people doing that each year.

Oh, I don’t mean the actual decorative paper.

I’m referring to the emotional kind.

Especially at Christmas, all the baggage from last year or the year before has a way of resurfacing, like flotsam splashing against a ship, finally cluttering the sea shore as the debris it is. Past emotional baggage can weigh you down, submerging the present moment with it. It often emerges as anger, distrust, resentment, jealousy, guilt and fear, to name only a few.

But it can also be the memories of the best Christmases ever, from way back when.

Oh, you remember: the Christmases that used to be and never will be again, the wrappings of Christmases past when everyone was together and happier, and healthier. That was before Uncle Ralph passed and before Aunt Dorothea joined him. Now all your cousins are scattered across the country and of course, they don’t come to the home place anymore, and neither do you, for that matter. But still, every Christmas is measured against the splendid wrappings of those past Christmases, which can never be again.

And even if your aunt and uncle and cousins are still alive, you don’t particularly want to see them really, because one of them said something that hurt you when your mom died four and a half years ago. And those snotty-nosed kids, you know, your cousins’ children? They’ve grown into an abysmal and self-centered bunch of bores.

So, we walk into Christmas like we’re walking into a room full of wrappings from years past, and even if the feelings of the past are nothing but good, by clinging to them, setting them up as the standard by which we judge all other Christmases, we miss whatever Christmas we could have now.

You’re so knee-deep in crinkled, wrapping paper and smashed boxes that you can’t seem to unravel yourself from it all.

Even if you’ve gotten good at pretending, at hiding it, you still feel it: all those emotions rumbling around inside you, like soured food on a cramping tummy.

You may attend the Christmas cantata, complete with a manger scene, but you’re not there, are you? No, your eyes are clouded by all the emotional cataracts you’ve let build up year after year.

Isn’t it time to clean house this Christmas?

Please understand: That doesn’t mean you forget the past — the good or bad. You may wish for selective amnesia, but it usually doesn’t work that way.

It simply means you will attempt to grasp the pleasant memories without elevating them to the status of judge and jury of your present ones. It means you are in the process of letting go of the hurtful ones, so that you can make way for the possibility of healing ones this Christmas. You might find nourishment in the words of the great Apostle: “Love keeps no record of being wronged … Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (I Corinthians 13: 4, 7).

And just how does it happen? I am not sure.

I do know Jesus said, “With God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:27).

Beyond that, I can’t tell you how, much less when it happens.

I suppose you’ll just have to step in faith, in the direction of that near and distant place, where hope survives, where it might after all be Christmas this Christmas.