In the Old Testament, the Israelite’s remembered God’s provision and faithfulness through feasts and celebrations. Several times a year, they’d celebrate how God brought them out of slavery, or how God protected them from their enemies. Additionally, throughout the Old Testament, people of faith would also set up memorial stones to remind themselves of God’s provision and providence.
In Genesis 35:14, Jacob set up a pillar in the place where God had spoken and revealed Himself. In 1 Samuel 7:12, Samuel took a stone and set it up saying, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” Every time the Israelite’s went by them, they would remember what God had done. How God had brought them out of bondage, healed their children, and supernaturally provided for their needs. Having those memorial markers helped the Israelite’s keep God’s grace and provision fresh in their memory.
Over the years, our family has carried out a tradition of giving Christmas ornaments to one another. Our tree is laden with ornaments going back to my childhood. Jennifer and I adopted this family tradition almost 25 years ago, and each year as we decorate the tree, we’re flooded with memories of years gone by. There’s the “Our First Christmas” ornament, with a picture of a much younger Bryan and Jen (and as Zach jokes, with hair). We have ornaments that were given by missionary friends from Russia & China. And there are many that memorialize the SF Giants 2010, 2012 & 2014 World Series victories!
It’s fun to see our son, Zach, really appreciate the tradition as he proudly hangs most of his ornaments on the front of the tree. We talk about each one, as we remember our dogs Mickey and Maggie or remember the fun we had together in Hawaii during our sabbatical. We cherish the ornaments Zach made in elementary school and recall friends and family who we’ve enjoyed these fun seasons with and miss dearly. And each year as we take down the tree, we separate out Zach’s ornaments, so one day he can carry the tradition on. And NO we’re NOT rushing this, as we feel the days with our son quickly slipping through our hands.
Yes, celebrations and memorial markers help us to recall and remember God’s goodness in the land of the living. I’m grateful for the traditions that my mom started and that we continue these, for they truly remind me of how full and blessed my life really is!
As you celebrate this Christmas, may your time with family and friends truly embrace the message of Christmas, Emmanuel, God with us! Merry Christmas!