Today is the first in a series of Advent blogposts entitled, “Make room.” These are “reflections” on the Christmas story. I feel like the word, “reflection” gives me some generous wiggle room to write thoughts and pose questions without the nagging pressure of being all neat and theologically buttoned up.
Each day’s reflection will offer a word or phrase on how we might meditate on or respond to the Christmas story. But first things first, read the Scripture indicated in the title of the blogpost.
Today’s word is remember. Of all the verbs of Scripture, remember has to be one of the most important. All throughout the Old Testament Scriptures, the Israelites are commanded to remember. Memory was to be their fail-safe protection against doubt and rebellion. And it’s precisely in their inevitable failing to remember that they ultimately fail God and His purposes for them as a nation.
To remember is one of our many acts of paying attention. There’s something deliberate about remembering. And something inevitable about forgetting.
The Christmas story, as retold in the gospel of Matthew, begins with this very act of remembering. The story plunks itself right down in the annals of history, opening with a (yawning) genealogy.
But what could have it meant that Matthew chose to begin Jesus’ story in exactly this way, in this retelling of who begat whom, in this act of remembering? Why was the author making these deliberate connections between the (then) present story of Jesus with the past stories of David and Abraham?
Because the story of Jesus is not the first chapter of God’s story. In Matthew, we open to the proverbial middle of the book. Jesus is linked directly with David and with Abraham, saying something about Jesus (as the fulfillment of the promises to the Israelite people) and something about God (as the keeper of these promises).
History calls us to look back. And memory is one of the greatest faculties of faith. God’s ways are often traced better in the looking back than in the looking ahead.
The future never gives up the answers we greedily demand of it. We try and wring out its secrets, but the truth is that none of us knows for certain what God will do. Looking ahead puzzles and perplexes us.
But looking back, oh, there’s something certain to be learned there. It’s in re-reading the chapters of life already written for me that I discover something about God. There are truths to be traced out in the steps I’ve already taken.
His initiative of grace, resolving to seek me out.
His scripting of good and redemption just when I’m mucking it up.
His choreography of good purposes even in the chapters of greatest pain.
And despite my reluctance, the mounting evidence that he’s graciously moving me in the ways of his will.
All that movement, imperceptible. He, furtive, his purposes, hidden.
But the present has the potential to spill yesterday’s secrets.
And it’s up to me to pay attention, to trace out the patterns, to unearth the mysteries.
And memory fortifies courage.
And hope fossilizes in the looking back.
This Advent, I remember.
What are truths that you’ve discovered about God in re-reading some of the chapters of your past? And how does that help you face an uncertain future? I’d love for you to share in the comment section.