Sometimes we need to look back in order to see clearly. We need to remember. When we remember, we perceive our present circumstances with a redeemed clarity. The hymn, "O God, Our Help in Ages Past" reminds us that the God who has helped in the past is the hope of all our years to come. The Psalms are replete with songs that urged God's people to look back and remember. Through generations the Israelites rehearsed God's mighty deeds and covenant promises.
Psalm 44:1 recalls, 'We have heard it with our ears, O God; our ancestors have told us what you did in their days, in days long ago."
Psalm 71:17-18 declares, "Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come."
And, Psalm 78:12-14 remembers, "[God] divided the sea and led them through; He made the water stand up like a wall. He guided them with the cloud by day and with light from the fire all night."
Rehearsing the narrative of God's redemption in the past orients our present circumstances toward the trajectory of God's promises fulfilled.
On Christmas Day, we remember; we, the family of God in this place. Through generations we look back and remember that Christ has come. "And while [Mary and Joseph] were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a Son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them." (Luke 2:6-7). Think back on this moment in God's story of redemption. And, think back on those who have passed this story on to you. This was an ordinary night, when a young woman gave birth to a baby boy. On this night a mother held her son and wrapped him in blankets, holding him tenderly. An earthly father looked on them both with pride. To some it was an ordinary day, and ordinary circumstances. But we remember. This child was and is the Son of God. And this was a day that would alter every day to come.
Now, look up. Consider your family, your friends, your life. Consider the good and the bad, the joy and the struggle. Consider your life in the light of this child, in the light of this day long past.
"O God, our Help in ages past, Our Hope for years to come..." What do you see?