Christmas is all about memories.
It's what gives the season its festive significance: the company of family and friends gathered over a traditional Christmas meal, the unwrapping of presents, the singing of carols on a winters night, the sharing of sweets and goodies, the joy and laughter that punctuates the air, and the love and warmth that one experiences throughout the month.
If we try hard enough, it's quite possible for us to recall in detail how we spent our Christmas-es through the past ten, twenty, whatever number of years. This is not only because Christmas Day occurs only once a year but more so because the celebrations are intrinsically linked to the memories we have of some of our deepest relationships.
For many people in the world today, however, these memories are not necessarily pleasant. It can be a cruel reminder of the days before the divorce, of days when one or both parents were together, of days when they had friends who loved and cared, of days when they had a job or a business or a sizeable income, of days when they were rarely alone.
For them, there's nothing merry or happy about Christmas but a sad reminder of how their life hasn't really matched their expectations. It's a depressing time since everywhere they go the festive decorations in shops, malls and restaurants are all about being together with loved ones. The very things they wish to avoid and want to forget.
Sometimes the kind of childhood we've had can have a huge bearing on our celebrations. If it was a happy childhood where we were the centre of our family's love and affection, then, we are most likely to want to replicate a little bit of that which we experienced a long time ago. It can also work the same way if our childhood memories are sad and bitter, making us want to make up for all that we feel we have lost.
However, Christmas is not only about the memories we've had, but it's also about the Christ Child who was born in a little town of Bethlehem a long time ago. He came to 'heal the broken hearted and bring freedom to the captives.' It is with these words that He began His work and preached His message of love. These words got the attention of people who were outside the religious establishment and gave them hope. It made them see their life a little bigger than what it was and made them dream big.
For Mary, the memories of that first Christmas remained etched forever in her mind, and it is said that she pondered them in her heart. As she stood at the cross watching Christ suffer, I wonder if she remembered all the events of that first christmas: the long trek to Bethlehem, the birth in a manger, the surprise visit by the shepherds and the wise men, and the words of the angel that she would be part of one of the biggest miracles.
Those memories must have given her hope that all was, probably, not lost when she saw Christ suffer on the cross. It's the memories that must have helped her and the memories that, perhaps, gave her strength. And maybe when she saw the resurrected Christ it was those memories that reminded her that her hope was not in vain.
Question is, what are our memories? And what are we doing with them?