Charles Dickens made the ghosts of Christmas famous in his legendary character Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. The ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future showed and taught Scrooge how his miserly ways were destroying the Christmas spirit. No doubt many of us today are haunted by our own forms of selfishness and materialism. But in this post, I’m dealing with ghosts of a different nature—the ones that might haunt our attitudes, demeanors and relationships this Christmas season.

The ghost of life past—unforgiveness. Most of us have been hurt by others. Some of us have been hurt deeply. And in many cases the hurts of our past haunt our present. While we can never undo the experiences and hurts of our past, we can choose to forgive those who have wronged us. Forgiveness is a divine expectation for followers of Jesus Christ. Forgiveness is for us not for those who’ve wronged us. Too many people this Christmas season will suffer in bitterness because they won’t forgive others. I don’t want to appear insensitive. I’m grieved for those who have experienced betrayal, hate, abuse, neglect, or any number of other deeply disturbing pains. In fact, Jesus himself is deeply grieved over your pain. All too often our pains were perpetrated by family members whom we will face over the holidays. To exorcise this ghost, you must choose to forgive those who’ve wronged you. To forgive does not mean that you can forget or that you must trust the individual again. It simply means that you must choose not to hold bitterness, anger, or punishment against them in your own hand. As I noted above, to forgive is divine. You need the power of the Holy Spirit to forgive. And YOU need to forgive for YOURSELF. Christmas is about forgiveness—God was deeply wronged by our sin, and he sent his perfect Son to forgive us. I urge you. Please search your heart and forgive any bitterness that remains from your past.

The ghost of life present—busyness. Today’s Christmas season begins right after Halloween and drives us to shopping malls, internet deals, numerous parties, trips, and events. While many things require our attention, time, and attendance, they can often exhaust the joy out of our holiday. Why? Because we are so focused on getting things done, pleasing others, and finalizing tasks, we often fail to appreciate the simplicity of the real reason for the Christmas season. To exorcise this ghost, set aside a time to pause and celebrate the real reason for the season—Jesus. Learn to appreciate the simple quiet moments of the season—the beauty of a classic Christmas carol, the wonder on the face of a young child enamored with Christmas “twinklie” lights, or even the quiet moments you may off day during Christmas season. Make time to pause, to be thankful, and to celebrate Jesus, the Lord and Savior.

The ghost of life future—worry. Some of us (okay, probably all of us to some degree) get sidetracked by our concerns and worries. We worry about what decision we’re supposed to make, how we’re going to pay a bill (or pay for Christmas), or how we’re going to reconcile a relationship. We worry about these types of things and a lot more. Sometimes we attempt to veil our worry as a “concern,” but most often we are still being sinful by focusing on what is not ours to deal with. In Matthew 6:31-34, Jesus tells us not to be anxious—not to worry. In fact, most of what we worry about are things in the future that we have no control over. Being haunted by the ghost of life future shackles our faith and hampers our ability to focus on the God who loves us and will take care of us. To exorcise this ghost, we must replace our worries with the One who is called Wonderful. Trust must take the place of worry. Sounds a bit simple, right? Yes, it actually is simple. We trust when we begin to look at the Sovereign, Wonderful, Lord of all instead of our concerns and worries. The best way to focus on our Lord instead of our situations is to read his Word, spend time in prayer, and recount the many ways that he has already intervened in our lives.

There are certainly other ghosts that might haunt us this season. But at least in my own life unforgiveness, busyness, and worry have at times stolen my joy. These ghosts lead us to be miserly, selfish, grumpy, and generally unpleasant—picture Ebenezer Scrooge or the Grinch. To borrow from the Bible translation of my childhood (the King James translation) the Holy Ghost is the only One who can chase away the ghosts that haunt and strip our joy away. God have us the Holy Ghost so we could forgive, praise, and trust. May we experience a renewed relationship with God this Christmas and have an abundance of the joy he brings.