In a world where not too much is certain, and the rules of the game seem to change, sometimes minute by minute, there is one universal certainty. And that one certainty is that we all have a past. Our past is filled with successes and failures, both big and small. Our past is filled with smiles and also with tears. It is filled with things we are glad to share with others, and it is filled with things we keep hidden from others, or at least “hidden” until the paparazzi or TMZ show up. Did you know that TMZ, the celebrity news website, actually stands for thirty-mile zone, which represents the studio zone within a 30-mile radius centered around the intersection of West Hollywood Boulevard and North La Cienaga Boulevard in LA?
In part, our past makes us who we are today. You have likely heard the adage that “the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree” or “a chip off the old block,” or how about, “like father, like son.” While we are all influenced by our past, we do not have to let our past dictate the present or the future. It is true that sadly some people let their past be like an anchor that keeps pulling them under the water. It is also true that we all have the ability to use our past as a launching pad for tomorrow. We can wallow in the mud of our past, crying out “Woe, is me,” or we can climb out of the mire and mud, jump in the shower, and holler those famous words from Buzz Lightyear, “To infinity and beyond.”
You might right now be thinking, “Oh you don’t know my past. It is filled with too many pitfalls and the hole is just too deep to climb out of.” And you are correct, we might not know your past, but hear this, God does. And God is interested in redeeming and restoring you, no matter how broken you feel. God can set your feet on solid ground. Jesus came into this world to do that; bring you hope and bring you a future. Through the prophet Jeremiah the LORD spoke to the people in exile, and the words are a promise to us today as well – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” (Jer 29:11)
David wrote this in Psalm 40:1-2 – I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
And the apostle Paul knew he could not dwell on his past sins and failures. He writes this, found in Philippians 3:12-14 – Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Paul was saying that “forgetting” was not obliterating the memory of his past, but it meant a conscious refusal to let it absorb his attention and impede his progress. We too, no matter how cluttered our past is with baggage, can “forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead.” We can use our past to launch ourselves into tomorrow.
So this Christmas Season, this Advent season (Advent literally means “the coming), Jesus comes to bring you freedom. He comes offering you hope and a bright future. Right now, will you open your heart and allow God’s Love, expressed through Jesus, to find you?