What immediately comes to mind when you hear “Christmas”? Tantalizing presents wrapped in bows and colored paper? A tree covered in tinsel and lights? Freshly fallen snow sparkling in the winter sunshine? Family gathered around a juicy turkey? Jesus swaddled and lying peacefully in the manger? For most of us, Christmas brings back a flood of memories from our childhood onwards. For me, “Christmas” means my fourteen siblings and I gathered to take turns reading the account of Christ’s birth and then eagerly exchanging small gifts with each other. Christmas is a time of family, fellowship, and often gift-giving. But, above all, Christmas is a time of remembrance.
Days of Remembrance
All throughout the year we have important days of remembrance. Some of these are government-instituted holidays, set up not just so we can have some time off work or with family, but often to encourage us to remember something important. Memorial Day reminds Americans that many people have given their lives for freedom; it’s not something that was or is simply free. Veteran’s Day (or Remembrance Day in my home country of Canada) likewise reminds us of the cost of freedom. Independence Day, July 4th (or Canada Day, July 1st), reminds us of our national heritage and brings us together in a celebration of our nation and how we got here. Thanksgiving is a time to slow down and be thankful for everything we have. It points us toward our Creator God who has given us everything we have and who deserves our never-ending thanksgiving and praise. Easter is a time when the knowledge of what Christ did for us is on our minds more often than perhaps other times of the year.
Each of these holidays, and others, reminds us of something and provides a chance to just stop and remember.
Each of these holidays, and others, reminds us of something and provides a chance to just stop and remember. These days are important because they keep us from forgetting where our nation has come from, or what freedom costs, or, more importantly, what Jesus Christ has done for us. Essentially that’s what Christmas is. It’s a time of year when we actively think about what Jesus’ coming to earth meant for us both for now and eternity. It’s a time of remembrance and thanksgiving for God’s greatest gift, His Son (John 3:16).
Biblical Days of Remembrance
Of course, Christmas was not instituted in the Bible, but Romans 14:5 reminds us that it is perfectly acceptable to esteem some days above others (or not to!). And we see examples of reminders—and the importance of them—in the Bible. In Joshua 4, after the Israelites crossed the Jordan River by God’s supernatural provision, God commanded the Israelites to set up 12 stones as “a memorial to the children of Israel forever” (verse 7). When their children asked them what these stones meant, the parents were to tell their children the account of God’s provision and how He divided the waters so they could cross safely (verses 6–7). In 1 Samuel 7:12, the prophet Samuel set up a stone and named it Ebenezer. It was to serve as a reminder that “thus far the Lord has helped us.” (At the Creation Museum, we have an allosaurus skeleton named Ebenezer that serves as a reminder of the truth of the Flood of Noah’s day and God’s Word.) In Exodus 12 God instituted the celebration of Passover as a memorial of the Israelites’ dramatic deliverance from the hand of Egypt by the Lord their God. The Israelites were to celebrate Passover each year and remember what God had done for them. These are just a handful of many Old Testament examples of reminders and memorials to great things the Lord had done for His people.
We see memorials continue into the New Testament. Before His death, Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper as a memorial of what He has done for us on the Cross. The Apostle Paul recounts Christ’s words: “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me . . . This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11:24, 25). We are to remember Christ and His sacrifice by the bread and the cup. So reminders of things that God has done for His people are certainly biblical.
These memorials can help us get our thoughts back on track.
Why did God establish so many memorials and reminders of His provision and grace? Because, sadly, humans are prone to forget and neglect God. This happened frequently to the Israelites, and the result was always tragedy. Memorials and reminders serve as something tangible to stop us in our busy lives and cause us to focus on what we should be focusing on all year—God and His goodness and grace. These memorials can help us get our thoughts back on track.
Reminders for the Next Generation
Reminders are also an important part of raising God-fearing children. In Deuteronomy 4:25 we read, “When you beget children and grandchildren and have grown old in the land, and act corruptly and make a carved image in the form of anything, and do evil in the sight of the Lord your God to provoke Him to anger . . . ” Here Moses is highlighting that people and their descendants would forget God and what He has done. It might have seemed ridiculous to the Israelites that they should forget God’s rescue from Egypt, but sadly they often did and their children and grandchildren certainly did (e.g. Judges 2:10–12). They needed a reminder to keep it fresh in their minds and that’s why God instituted memorials.
God commands His people to raise children to love the Lord and His Word: “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:7); “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6); “and you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). This means we need to teach our children to love God’s Word and to hide it in their hearts (Psalm 119:11). We need to model godly living for them by constantly showing them what it means to follow, obey, and love the Word of God (Deuteronomy 6:7). But we should also provide reminders for our children of God and His goodness. These special days or times direct our thoughts back to who is most important—God.
Christmas: A Reminder of Christ
This brings us back to Christmas. Regardless of when Jesus was actually born, this joy-filled holiday can be a wonderful time of remembering the reason we have joy for this life and hope for eternity. Christ came to earth as a baby, a descendant of Adam, so that He could grow up and be tempted just as we are, and yet live without sin (Hebrews 4:15). And then, this God-man who never knew sin would eventually become sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21), taking our penalty of death upon Himself so that we could receive the free gift of salvation and be forgiven and welcomed into eternity with Jesus (John 3:16). What a beautiful picture of love! And what an incredible event to be reminded of.
This Christmas, take time to remind yourself and your children of God and His goodness. Use Christmas as an opportunity to slow down and marvel in the amazing grace and love of our gracious Heavenly Father and His Son. What a wonderful way to end this year and herald in the next!