Christmas time is a time to remember the best of the past. There was, hopefully, for all of us, a time when there was something “magic” in the season. We’re talking colors, smells, and sounds more than presents, or even the Christmas story. It is about warm and fuzzy feelings that produce wistful thoughts. Sentimental hearts and hopeless romantics are always in the market for nostalgia. What is difficult is to sort out the good and the bad related to nostalgic reflection. How much should we indulge, if at all?
There have been studies that have shown the positive effects of nostalgia, beyond the warm feelings. Included are a greater sense of happiness, self-esteem, and increased optimism about the future. It can help with stress and regulate moods. Plus, to do it with others who experienced the same things you did is a form of communal intimacy. All this seems good for the soul.
Put anything on a pedestal, people or eras of history, and you deny reality.
But there are also concerns. Many see deception written all over nostalgia. Take off the sepia-tinted glasses, and you will see that the good old days were just real days, both good and bad. And they were filled with things like racism, sexism, and naïveté towards the world beyond ourselves. The 1950’s bring back fond memories only for those who had it good. “Make America Great Again” is a slogan that plays into this longing for a better time for some, but not for others. The tendency to photoshop selective memories is a form of self-deception. Put anything on a pedestal, people or eras of history, and you deny reality. We need less nostalgia and more honest (cynical?) readings of history. And stop avoiding the painful present by going to an idealized past!
And doesn’t it seem right to read “honest history” that is not filtered through cynical or nostalgic lenses but acknowledges that there is, in every age and every person, a mix of good and bad?
So, how do we proceed? First, it would seem good to rate ourselves. On a scale of one to ten, with one being a cold cynic who hates nostalgia to ten being a warm memory maker–where are you? Aren’t we all just a little conflicted? Doesn’t it seem like some nostalgia, and it is, of course, going to be selective for each of our stories, is a good thing? And doesn’t it seem that too much living in the past, especially a past that neglects injustice towards others, is a bad thing? And doesn’t it seem right to read “honest history” that is not filtered through cynical or nostalgic lenses but acknowledges that there is, in every age and every person, a mix of good and bad?
The Christmas story is susceptible to nostalgia–the cute animals, angels, shepherds and wise men and all.
Back to Christmas. The Christmas story is susceptible to nostalgia–the cute animals, angels, shepherds and wise men and all. But there is also a very evil king who kills babies. There is a cold Roman empire that could care less about this event that would change history. There was a warning to Mary that her son would cause her soul to be pierced. All to say, there were wonders to celebrate and horrors to contemplate in the first Christmas. Good and bad, just like today.
–Pastor Mark, The Imperfect Pastor
Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. (Matthew 4:19 NKJV)