Wednesday, November 28, 2012

First Cup—First Week of Advent 2012: Remembering

Christmas is nearly up at our house.

(The living tree for the living room is not; that will likely happen this weekend, especially if the lovely Troutdale Tornado stops.) The rest is all down from the attic and displayed around the house. I think it’s a trade off; there are as many Santa’s as Baby Jesus’s—unless you add in all the snowpersons; I confess it is more secular than sacred.

It is comforting to see all of these familiar faces and scenes. (We added one new crèche this year.) So many memories connected to all these “things”—most of which seem to be “Made in China.”
Not the least of these is our first crèche—bought before we knew to call it a crèche from a Ben Franklins somewhere in California. Red Bluff, I think. There is something so utterly traditional and complete about this one. A couple of shepherds were added to it along the way, but that’s all. The angel hanging by a nail at the peak of the stable has a mended wing and every year we lose Joseph’s crook—and find it. This crèche is as old as our marriage and has kept its age better than we have.

There is something so important about all of these. Like so much about the faith, like Eucharist, they are about remembering and forgiving. Each one is a memory—some clearer than others—but it doesn’t take much reflection to connect with where we bought it, who we were with, and when. Trips with friends; trips alone; trips to Frankenmuth and Shipshewana and Ashville and Depoe Bay; trips with children.

Remembering—a central and deeply formational practice of the church—is central also to our lives and journey along the Way. In nearly everyway I can think of there is little more important than remembering. Of course, remembering can become nostalgia, the longing borne out of a sense that the past was better than it was: more certain and more complete. That is not the remembering we are called to. We are never allowed to forget the past, yet we are never allowed to live there.

Remembering—a central and essential practice of God. Remembering—keeping before us the truth of our past is as important to God as it should be to us. It is one of the things that God does: he remembers. If God forgot? Well, let’s not go there.

As I read beyond the Jeremiah lection for this week—Jeremiah 33:14-16—I found this remarkable passage: “These are the words of the LORD: It would be as unthinkable to annul the covenant that I made for the day and the night, so that they should fall our of their proper order, as to annul my covenant with my servant David… (20-21).

I thank God that God remembers.

How comforting and uncomfortable it is to believe in a God who doesn’t forget promises, people, or me.

How comforting it is to sit here on a Wednesday morning, surrounded by images of the One we long for as “in between people,” living in hope, anticipating the One who was, who is, and who is to come.


  1. Arthur,this is beautifully said. Recently I have been thinking about the word 'tradition'--at one time a pejorative word in my vocabulary: "the same old, meaningless traditions." But I now think about it differently. Tradition can be a staying true to the heart of the matter, remaining connected to the ways that God transforms and heals, being true to that which lasts. Your invitation to remember connects with me in this way. Thank you.

    1. You're welcome, Steve. I think it may be a fundamental flaw of the church in the 20th century to equate tradition with old and out of date. It is, I think, a failure of the imagination, which is, I believe, the gift of the Holy Spirit at work in God's people