Going Deeper 12-30-19

Hear again selected words from our first reading, Isaiah 63:7-9… I will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord, the praiseworthy acts of the Lord, because of all that the Lord has done for us, and the great favor to the house of Israel that he has shown them according to his mercy, according to the abundance of his steadfast love. … It was no messenger or angel but his presence that saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.  Thus far our text.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen.
Don’t forget to remember.  That is the theme of my message this morning: No matter what you do or don’t do… don’t ever forget to remember.  I will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord.
The ideal—and it is the grandest of all grand ideals—is that we, as children of God, come to see worship not as something we do on Sunday mornings (when we are willing and able to take the time), but as the very center of our lives.  God desires to both inspire and empower us to see our lives as journeys saturated by His presence and filled with joy and meaning as we remember and respond to His goodness and grace, His “hesed”, a Hebrew word which means steadfast love, Which is used 239 times in the Old Testament.
Remembering is the heart of worship, and worship is the heart of life; therefore, remembering is at the very heart of everything!  Throughout history, right up to here and now, spiritual amnesia has caused a horrific amount of damage among God’s people.  In a sense, one might say a type of spiritual Alzheimer’s disease proved to be all but terminal to ancient Israel, and it continues to threaten God’s Church to this very day.  But I will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord.
Christmas is the perfect time to dwell on this core truth.  It is very easy for the real meaning of the Christmas story to get lost in all of the hustle and bustle of the season.  But even beyond that, it is easy for those of us who have heard the same story over and over again throughout our years to lose sight of the fact that it is not only a true story, but a story of profound truth.
Here is the Christmas story from the Gospel of John: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth.”  This truly happened!  The pre-existing, eternally existing, divine word of God, through Whom and for Whom all things were made, became flesh, born of a young woman, His first bed a feedbox for animals.  Imagine that!  Remember that!
Please, don’t forget to remember!  Every year we sing many of the same old hymns.  If you’re like me, I can sing them with at least a faint sense of nostalgia, but at the same time not really be impacted by what they are proclaiming.  For example, let’s ponder in our hearts the words of our Hymn of the Day, and try to focus and contemplate on the truly incredible story being told:
Hark! The herald an-gels sing, “Glory to the newborn King; Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”  Joyful, all ye nations, rise, join the triumph of the skies;
With the angelic hosts proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem!” 
Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”
 
Christ, by highest heav’n adored, Christ, the everlasting Lord, Late in time behold Him come, 
Offspring of a virgin’s womb. Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail the incarnate Deity! Pleased as Man with man to dwell, Jesus our Immanuel!  Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!” 
Hail, the heav’n-born Prince of Peace! Hail, the Sun of Righteousness! Light and life to all he brings,
ris’n with healing in His wings. Mild He lays His glory by, born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.  Hark!  The herald angels sing, 
“Glory to the newborn King!”
I will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord.  And what an incredibly remarkable gracious deed we celebrate during this season!  Again, this involves the infinitely powerful, all-knowing, and always and everywhere present Creator of the universe being moved by hesed, by steadfast love, to send His only Son to redeem the world, to redeem you and me and all of His children, by the sacrifice of His life on a cross, and through His victory over death on the third day.  Don’t ever forget to remember this most vital of all truth!
This remembering must be intentional on our part.  It will not just happen.  Not only are we humans prone to forget, or at least take for granted things that ought never be taken for granted, but you better believe that the devil, the world, and our sinful self—Luther’s so-called terrible trio—are determined to help us forget.  They will fill our minds and our memories with all sorts of other things and make them seem more important.  They’ll distract us from doing the kinds of things that can help up remember… things like going to church and receiving the sacrament, studying the scriptures, spending time in contemplation and prayer.  Or they will to seek have us do such things mindlessly, or for the wrong reasons.  They are determined to make us forget!
Again, we can see this clearly in the history of the people called “Israel.”  In our text, Isaiah, like so many other prophets on so many other occasions, seeks to remind Israel of the gracious deeds of the Lord, the One who rescued them from abusive slavery in Egypt, the One who lifted them up and carried them all the days of old, as our text declares.  From their rescue from the Egyptians onward, this message echoes throughout the rest of the Old Testament: Don’t ever forget to remember!! 
However… in spite of this redundant message, God’s people forgot.  Even though a major part of the Covenant made at Sinai called not only for remembering, but also for the careful and persistent passing on of the stories from parents to children, from generation to generation, this was also soon neglected.  A failure to remember leads to a failure to pass the truth on to the next generations, which eventually leads to everything falling apart.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is at the very heart of why we are here.  We must never forget to remember.  We must do whatever is necessary to keep the story alive and fresh in our own hearts and minds, and to make sure we pass it on to our children and grandchildren.  Let me say it again: there is nothing more important in any of our individual or collective lives.
Here at Zion, remembering is why we offer the sacrament of Holy Communion every week.  We do this to remember Jesus and what He did for us on the night when He was betrayed.  Every time we mysteriously and miraculously receive Jesus’ body and blood in, with, and under the bread and the wine, we experience His presence and remember His love.
The promise is that God is a God in our midst, that we are creatures held in the Creator’s hand. We dare not forget to remember this life-saving and life-changing truth.  Amen.