We Remember, so We Tell Stories
My husband often repeats his favorite stories to me, which puzzled me for many years. I wondered:
Does he think he’s never told me about the game-winning home run he hit when he was eight years old?
How could I forget that the tree in his parent’s backyard came from his grandfather’s yard?
Maybe he thinks I’m a bad listener? Because I could totally give all the details about that time he jumped a fence to get his football and got a dog bite too.
After a while, I realized that he was telling the stories more for his own enjoyment than for mine!
Stories are usually told for the benefit of the listener. We often tell stories to inform or to entertain others. Whether you got a ticket on the way to work, heard your kids say something hilarious, or climbed a treacherous mountain, you’ll want to share that with your circle, the short list of people who know the rest of your story. We want to convey the details and our emotion. Because we want to share ourselves and to connect with others, we tell stories.
We Tell Stories so We Remember
Stories are for the listener, but they are also for the storyteller. As a writer, I get that. I write to mark the big events or important ideas that shape me. I learn more about my own journey as I write it. Like my husband, I tell stories for myself. I want to relive the best parts and learn from the worst parts to make sure I don’t forget. I want to remember.
In Advent, we remember. We retell the very same story, every year, because there isn’t a better story to tell. The Gospel is the greatest story ever told.
- “Do not be afraid, Zechariah…your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John” (Luke 1:13, ESV).
- “Do not be afraid, Mary…behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.” (Luke 1:30-31, ESV).
- In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered…Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem…with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child…And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn (Luke 2:1-7, ESV).
- And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night…the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people (Luke 2:8-10, ESV).
God Wants Us to Remember
In Week One of Advent, we remember that all of this amazing story was foretold by holy men, prophets. Week One commemorates the continued hope for redemption, passed down through the ages. Hope for Messiah was kindled by prophecy, which was remembered well. Prophecy was recited and read in the presence of the congregation in the Temple, in synagogues, along the road, and around the dinner table.
To demonstrate the sovereignty of God — that He knows the end from the beginning — Messiah’s birth was foretold in the beginning, in the Garden of Eden (Isaiah 46:10; Genesis 3:15). Sometimes you don’t see the significance of the story’s details until you look back later. Even the disciples didn’t completely grasp the truth until after Jesus died (John 2:2; 12:16). Remembering prophecy deepens our understanding of God’s faithfulness.
In Zechariah’s initial reaction to the birth of his son, John the Baptist, we see that he immediately remembered God’s faithfulness:
He spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
Luke 1:70-75, ESV
So, this week, let’s savor the prophecy (the foretelling of the story) by remembering that God always fulfills His promises. The birth, life, and resurrection of Jesus demonstrate that God’s promises are true:
For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.
2 Cor 1:20, NIVUK
Amen and amen.
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