"Remember." It's that simple. In our men's Bible study, tonight we worked through Ephesians 2, where St. Paul tells us what we were before Christ, what God has done for us in Christ, how and why he did it, and then implores us to respond to it all. You might think he calls us to do some great act of courage or faith, to demonstrate our devotion with some act of obedience or worship, but all he says is, "Therefore, remember."
Memory is a wonderful and fearful thing. Many of us have memories we'd just as soon forget; sins committed, opportunities missed, traumas we have endured. Memories like this haunt us, dogging our path with regret, pain, and that sense of isolation that strikes fear into the soul. They evoke emotions that are just as real as at the time we went through that experience, though it be years ago. Then there are those memories that conjure up warm feelings of connectedness.
Most of us know someone who is present with us in body, but the ravages of dementia have erased huge swaths of memories to the point that they no longer even know who they are. The loss of memory can be as fearful as the presence of it. In the text we studied tonight, that simple command is arresting. We aren't commanded to do some great act of faith, nor to observe a ritual of devotion, but to simply remember.
I've found that it is when I forget that I get into trouble. I get distracted, let my attention wander, simply put...I forget to remember. I cannot think of a single sin I've ever committed, an opportunity missed, that isn't traceable to forgetting to remember what God in Christ has done for me, made available to me.
This season of Advent is a time of remembering, not merely with nostalgia, but with that active memory of what God in Christ has accomplished for our salvation and life. There is nothing missing, no shortfall of grace and mercy.
John Newton is remembered for penning the words to that most-beloved hymn, "Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound." He wrote of how he had learned the Gospel at his mother's knee, but forgot. Over and over, as he descended into sin, becoming a slave trader, and finally becoming enslaved himself, he forgot. Until the day he remembered, and returned to the Christt who had been pursuing him for years. As an old man walking the streets of Bristol, he would often talk with people. Inevitably, he would tell them, "I am an old man and have forgotten many things. But this I remember: I was a great sinner, and Christ is a great Savior."
Remember, Jim...and give thanks tonight.