Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Advent - Remembering

This week, the rhythm of advent shifts from looking forward and anticipating the return of the Son to looking back and remembering His first coming. Each year the church pauses to remember through stories, songs, plays and pictures. We remember, retell, reconsider, rehearse.

To re-hearse is to "hearse again." That word causes me to stop and think. When I think of rehearsing, I think of practicing my lines for an upcoming performance. So what does this have to do with a hearse?

A hearse refers to a tomb, an encasing, an elaborate framework used in ceremonies commemorating those who have died. So a hearse helps us remember those who died. Hearse comes from the word "harrow," which means to cultivate, break up, tear apart the land.

Each year the farmer re-harrows the land before planting. Each year we re-harrow our lives by remembering the incarnation of God in our midst. We must rehearse or else our minds grow hard, cold, infertile and forgetful.

Our land has forgotten the ancient stories, and I fear our churches have as well. One friend who has served his mother struggling with Alzheimer's disease suggested to me that the prevalence of this disease in our time seems to be a sign of a culture that has forgotten their roots. Failing to re-harrow, we suffer from memory loss.

The church didn't always set aside a time for remembering the birth of Christ. An intentional focus on remembering the birth of Christ came in response to a heresy that suggested Jesus was never really born in human flesh: he was simply a spirit that came to enlighten us. So the church decided to re-harrow, remember, rehearse the ancient tale of God made flesh.

This act of remembering was an act of war against thoughts and ideas fighting to diminish God's action in human history. And the war still rages. The culture continues to forget and diminish and discard the wonder of God, the gift of God, the blessing of God upon us.

The festive trappings that overshadow our season of remembrance can be frustrating. As Frosty, Rudolph and Santa loom larger than the Lord of Glory we may feel shut out from our own party.

I would suggest the response to this mass forgetfulness is not anger but remembering, re-hearsing. Let us revisit the ancient stories. Let us remember the babe in the manger, the shepherds in the field, the angels in the sky. But let us deepen our memory, reaching further back into the story.

Let us revisit the story of creation, the story of the garden. Let us brood deeply upon the flood, the tower of Babel, the call of Abraham. Let us pause at the enslavement in Egypt, the wondrous journey to the land of promise, the time of the great judges. Let us reconsider the glory and tragedy in the kingdom of Israel. Let us weep with Jeremiah at the destruction of temple, and dream with Ezekiel at the temple to come.


As we reread, remember, rehearse these stories, we come to realize with the writer of Hebrews that we are part of the story. Their story is our story. The story of the Jesus is our story. The miraculous birth, the announcement in the Temple, the flight to Egypt: these are all part of our story.

We are part of the journey from the mount of Transfiguration to the mount of Golgotha to the mount of Zion. This is our story, our testimony. Let us remember and retell and rehearse our story.

During this time of remembering, I encourage you to pause and rehearse the story of our Savior born in Bethlehem. Let it cut deep in your heart. I trust the Spirit of grace will come and break up our fallow ground, restoring us by "re-storying" us in His grand drama of redemption and recreation.

1 comment:

Andrew Clarke said...

Hi Doug, I found some interesting thoughts on your blog. If you want to check mine, as a fellow Christian, go to http:threeswans.blogspot.com