I don’t consider myself to be the most artistic person in the world, and when it comes to decorating, I generally leave such details to … well to just about anyone but me! And as a result, I never participated in the annual Christmas decorating. Until I retired that is. With all our kids gone, my wife, who fully expected me to refuse, asked if I would like to help decorate the Christmas tree. You should have seen her mouth drop open when I agreed. And this has been my little contribution to the Christmas decorations ever since. I don’t know that I’m overly good at it, but my wife seems happy to have the help, and she never complains.
Why do I decorate the Christmas tree ever year without complaining? Why have I actually started looking forward to this yearly task?
It’s because over half of the ornaments that go on the tree were gifts from various students I taught over the years. Funny how I may have forgotten their names, how I don’t even remember they existed most of the year; but the moment one of those ornaments comes out of the box, I remember their faces, their humor, their laughter, even their grades at school, all with perfect clarity. This little yearly exercise makes me remember how blessed I was to be a teacher. They say that teachers touch the hearts of students; but to me, they are the ones who touched my heart. As I put each ornament on that tree, I realize anew how much I miss each and every one of them. Guess what I will be doing about this time next year? Yup! I’ll be hanging ornaments on the Christmas tree! But more importantly, I will be remembering all of those beautiful kids and those wonderful moments.
What if I hadn’t started decorating the Christmas tree around the same time as I retired? Would I even remember those students? I doubt it. It is the act of decorating the Christmas tree that is keeping those happy memories alive in my mind.
You see, the human tendency is to forget. We get so wrapped up in the problems of today that we don’t spend any time contemplating the miracles and the blessings of the past. Take God’s blessings, for example. He blesses us abundantly every moment of every day. But do we remember them? Do we even notice them? If we did, would we be so inclined to worry the next time problems set in? I don’t think so. I know from personal experience that meditating on God’s blessings, promises and miracles of the past helps to strengthen my faith for the problems of today. Why is it, then, that in the face of today’s difficulties, I can never seem to remember God’s blessings of the past?
Hey, I think I could learn something from decorating the Christmas tree! I have all those ornaments to remind me of my students, and I make an effort every year to meditate on them, to keep those memories alive. What if I were to make lists of God’s miracles in my life? What if I were to recognize every blessing and write it down? What if I were to meditate upon those miracles and blessings on a regular basis? Would that serve to keep the memories alive?
God knows our tendency to forget His blessings and His miracles. This is why He instructed the infant kingdom of Israel to put certain safeguards into place so that they wouldn’t forget! One such safeguard was a song written by Moses: “Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to y ou. When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided all mankind, he set up boundaries for the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel. For the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance.” (Deut. 32:7-9 NIV)
You can read the entire song in Deuteronomy 32. Similarly, Miriam wrote a song after the crossing of the red sea (See Exodus 15). God specifically instructed Israel of other things to do to remember His decrees: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deut. 6:6-9 NIV; See all of Deuteronomy 6). This next one comes from the book of Joshua: “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (Joshua 1:8 NIV), and we are given numerous other admonitions in the Bible to do things to help ourselves remember (See Colossians 3:16; Psalm 119:11; Psalm 119:15; Psalm 1:2; Jeremiah 15:16; etc.).
Why not make time this Christmas to make a list of God’s miracles and blessings in the past year? Then resolve to meditate upon them, as well as on His promises and miracles in Scripture. Hey! Let the creche that we all set up in our homes serve as a reminder! Every time you see that creche, spend some time meditating on the true meaning of Christmas: Jesus, God Himself, came to us as a tiny baby. He grew up on this earth, endured the ridicule and the shame and died a horrible death, all for our Salvation!
I guarantee you that if you put these memory safeguards into place, not only will you face your next problems with faith and hope, but your Christmas season will be more of a blessing than ever before!
Hum. Maybe I’ll volunteer to set up the creche next Christmas…
In His love,
Rob Chaffart, Director, Answers2Prayer Ministries