Advent: Images, Symbols, Practices, and Patterns, Part 3: An Open Invitation to Remember and Return.

If being forgetful (or absent-minded) is a sign of intelligence, I may be one of the world’s smartest people.

Given the kind of year 2020 has been, being forgetful has its benefits.

The Bible, however, reveals forgetfulness as something that’s closely related to idolatry.  Whenever God’s people forget who they are and, more importantly, whose they are, they descend into practices and patterns that are more destructive than constructive.

We may think that equating forgetfulness with sinfulness is harsh.  Of course, not all types of forgetfulness can or should be equated with sinfulness.  However, I think we’d all agree there is a forgetfulness that is – at the very least – painful.

For example, if I forget to fulfill a promise to a friend, my friend will experience pain, and I should, at some point, realize the pain and confess my forgetfulness as painful.

Or if I fail to get my child from day-care at the end of a long, taxing work-day.  Such an oversight could cause a deep wound.  Even unintentional forgetfulness (which is usually the case) can deliver painful, debilitating consequences.

This distracted and unintentional forgetfulness is what we often read about in the Bible and experience in our daily lives.  In most cases, we are getting caught up in our daily-living to such a degree that we forget who we are and whose we are.  When we forget who we are and whose we are, we often neglect the associated opportunities and responsibilities.

While in most cases, forgetfulness is the byproduct of distraction; at times, it’s the outcome of self-absorption.

Advent As An Open Invitation to Remember and Return

It’s no wonder we encounter “remember and return” as a consistent biblical refrain.

That’s is one of the reasons I look forward to the Season of Advent.

The Season of Advent is the Christian New Year.  As the initial season of the year, it serves to realign me with an essential invitation of Scripture: remember and return!

In Jeremiah 2, for example, the prophet calls Jerusalem to repentance by invoking the image or symbol of remembering in a surprising way:

“The word of the Lord came to me, saying: ‘Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the Lord: I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown.’”

Take note: in this passage it is God who remembers.   

He remembers our relationship with Him.  Not that He ever forgets.  This language reminds us of the unceasing love and deep desire of the Father: to be with His children and for His children to enjoy being with Him! 

His remembering invites us to remember along with Him!

As God remembers us, a powerful transformation begins to bloom within us!

Advent As a Season of Cultivating and Tending Attentiveness

The bloom doesn’t just happen.  Much like the soil around a flower must be properly tended for the flower to bloom, so our soul must be cultivated for transformation to bloom within us!

How does this take place? One way is how or if we respond to God’s invitation to remember along with Him. As we join Him in His remembering us, our heart responds to the deep love He conveys.  As we respond, the roots dig deep, and the flower bursts forth.  As we respond, we begin to experience the new-life promise transformation often holds.

The Season of Advent provides an opportunity for us to settle into His remembering and become attentive to His gaze.  As the gaze of God settles in on us and we feel remembered by Him, we then begin to remember all that we’ve forgotten.

In Jerusalem’s case, they had forgotten the love of their youth and their devotion as His bride.  As God remembers this early-love, he invites Jerusalem to remember along with Him.  As Jerusalem remembers along with Him, they recall His faithful, steadfast, and unceasing love toward them!

We must remember all that we’ve forgotten during this particularly trying year we are leaving behind!  For there is much we need to reconcile.  There are likely many bridges still aflame, smoldering in the white-hot ash our forgetfulness has caused!

The images and symbols of Advent invite us to remember, year in and year out.

Distracted, Disheveled, Disrupted

If you are anything like me, then your forgetfulness is easily traced back to living a distracted, disheveled, and internally disrupted life.  No matter the reason, we can salvage what we’ve lost as we remember who we are and who we are.

How does the Advent Season uniquely encourage us to remember the truths we’ve forgotten? 

By inviting us to lean into a season of anticipation and eager waiting.

It seems that we get caught up in waiting, expecting, and preparing for everyone but Christ’s arrival this time of year (distracted, disheveled, and disrupted).

In the Gospel stories, many were both eagerly awaiting God’s in-breaking presence and preparing for the arrival of the Messiah. I love how the Gospel of Luke highlights an obscure man named Simeon at the time of Jesus’ coming. We don’t know much about Simeon.  We do know he is a righteous man who is looking forward to Israel’s consolation.

Advent As A Forward-Looking Season

He was, in other words, waiting and expecting the arrival of this child. That’s why we discover him in the temple on the eighth day as Mary and Joseph present the baby for purification.

In Luke 2 we read:

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him.”

Luke’s account portrays a man, just before his death, working tirelessly to see and receive the King of the world. I am often too aimless and distracted, caught up in the insignificant trials of life (distracted, disheveled, and disrupted), to work tirelessly to see Jesus in my midst.

I hope this year, as I lean into Advent, I can be as diligent as Simeon.  It’s clear that this man, old in years, never lost his first love.  He spent the latter portion of his life tirelessly pursuing Him.  Candidly, I spend many days of my year thoughtlessly forgetting Him.

I want to listen to God during Advent.  I want to listen to Him as He remembers me and then join Him in remembering us, together.

This is why I love the Church calendar and get a particular jolt of energy every Advent season.

It’s a reminder that God remembers.  It’s a reminder that He invites me to remember with Him.

Advent awaits you! Settle in!

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