Hopefully, at Christmas we remember, we reminisce, we tell stories of the good old days, hard times, silly happenstances. I say “hopefully,” because it is only when we remember well, when we can look back and discern the hand of God in the past, that we can turn then in hope to a secure future with God. If we look back with regret, or guilt, our mood moving forward will be one of anxiety and fear.
Old stories are fun – although some are painful. What Jesus wants for Christmas is good and painful stories – but for us to frame them in the perspective of God’s presence. Can we recall a moment, a sequence of events, and realize (with Jacob back in Genesis 28), “The Lord was in this place, but I did not know it”?
St. Augustine prayed to remember well so he would know God: “How far within my memory have I traveled in search of you, Lord!” Jesus wants us to sit for a while, thumb through an old photo album, maybe with an older relative or friend – and confess that we are lucky dogs, we’ve reaped benefits we’d forgotten, we were cast upon God’s care when we didn’t know where else to turn.
Our souls might be cured if we hear our oldest living kin recall giddily receiving Christmas gifts that were items like a badly needed pair of shoes, or long underwear to survive the bitter winter, not luxury items but simple necessities – beautified because they weren’t purchased thoughtlessly, but in light of the coming of Jesus into our lives.
The last page of Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping shares this hopeful, Christmasy thought: “Every memory is turned over and over again, every word, however chance, written in the heart in the hope that memory will fulfill itself, and become flesh, and that the wanderers will find a way home, and the perished, whose lack we always feel, will step through the door finally and stroke our hair with dreaming fondness, not having meant to keep us waiting so long.”
Memory is the womb in which hope is born. We remember our lives, and Jesus, and the future is bright as the morning star.
My newest book is really about remembering: Struck from Behind: My Memories of God. You can get it now for a discount I can get for you! Go to the publisher’s website page, and at checkout enter the coupon code STRUCK, and instead of $20 the book will only cost $12. This holds (for you) through the end of December. The book is also available immediately via Kindle for just $9, and Amazon.com has paper copy in stock now as well.