Christmas Day 2008 has past. That fact made us think of Christmas in a past, present and future sequence.

It has brought out many feelings -- feelings of happiness remembering the good times from the past and feelings of gratitude to have the opportunity to enjoy the present. But we find a feeling of sadness realizing our future is going to be short comparing the length of time in our past to the unknown time in our future.

The past is filled with so many memories. We have chosen a few to share and try to compare the present and anticipate the future.

When we were young, Santa brought us the gifts of fruit and nuts we found in the stockings hung up the night before.

Jim remembers a slingshot his dad made from a strong Y tree branch with a real rubberband. At that time, his dad didn't make much money as a school teacher and had signed up for the relief program. The firemen came to the house in the red fire truck with a train set for the boys. It was a favorite toy. He and his three brothers connected the oval track and took turns winding up the train and watched it travel around the track. Nowadays toys are battery operated. In the past, if it moved, you had to wind it up.

I remember the paper dolls. I carefully cut out each dress and accessory, then hooked the flaps over the dolls, dressing them up. My favorite real doll was a Shirley Temple doll with beautiful curly hair. We were always happy with our gifts -- never had a complaint.

When our children were young, we tried to give them the things they picked out of the Sears, Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogs if we could afford it, or we put gifts on layaway until we could earn the money needed.

Nowadays, credit cards are used and parents go into debt trying to get too many presents.

As for ourselves, we now consider purchases made during the year as Christmas gifts to each other. This year, Jim got a new TV and I got a microwave, gifts we have used and enjoyed all year.

In the future, the presence of family members will be gift enough. Watching the family we started, grow and multiply is what we enjoy the most. You can't put a price tag on love. This year on Christmas Day, our entire family was able to be together. That doesn't happen often.

I found Christmas cards in Mother's closet with 3 cents postage on them, The present postage is 42 cents. We wonder what postage will be in the future, or will all greetings be sent over the computer? We think it will be sad if that happens. The personal touch of the Christmas card received in your mailbox will be lost.

Jesus is the reason for the season. In the past, wishing a Merry Christmas expressed a wish for happiness on the day of our savior's birth. It was accepted, expected and enjoyed. The children learned and sang Christmas carols in church and at school.

We don't really understand why saying Merry Christmas is forbidden, why putting up the Nativity scene is frowned upon or or why children can't sing the carols in programs at school. We bought label pins from the Methodist youth that say "It's OK to say Merry Christmas." They want to put Christ back into Christmas. So do we.

We pray that in the future this trend will be reversed and everyone will again be allowed to wish Merry Christmas.

Our past is a memory. We are living the present and plan to spend our future enjoying each day to the fullest.

May the future bring peace on earth as our family continues to celebrate the Christmas season for the right reason and begin each New Year with optimism.

We wish everyone a happy healthy New Year.

Jim and Opal Flinn, Ellis, are members of the Generations Advisory Group.