I have the privilege of preaching next weekend as we kick off the Advent season. We are starting off talking about hope and the gift of fulfilled promises. As I have been contemplating the message and what God wants me to communicate, I have been reminded of the necessity to remember where we have been in the past to see hope for the future.
As I have been reading and researching, I came across Elie Wiesel's lecture that he gave in 1986 when he received the Nobel Peace Prize. Having survived the Nazi concentration camps, Wiesel had quite a story. It was difficult, he said, to conceive of Auschwitz with God and equally difficult to conceive of it without God. He said that they could have forgotten the past, but that was not an option. He said:
Remembering is a noble and necessary act. The call of memory, the call to memory, reaches us from the very dawn of history. No commandment figures so frequently, so insistently, in the Bible. It is incumbent upon us to remember the good we have received, and the evil we have suffered. New Year's Day, Rosh Hashana, is also called Yom Hazikaron, the day of memory. On that day, the day of universal judgment, man appeals to God to remember: our salvation depends on it. If God wishes to remember our suffering, all will be well; if He refuses, all will be lost. Thus, the rejection of memory becomes a divine curse, one that would doom us to repeat past disasters, past wars.
Now, I have not had near the experience that Wiesel did. I cannot even imagine the horrors that he and so many others experienced at the hands of merciless human beings. I am grateful though for the insight that he has, for having gone through what he did and sharing it with others. My difficulties seem so small in comparison, yet my difficulties have shaped me to be who I am.
Of course, hundreds of thousands of parents had experienced situations with their newborns that were far worse than ours were, but we had not had those experiences. Although we knew that there were many who had experiences that were far more severe and extreme than our own, in the midst of experience, it's hard to get that kind of perspective. All that we knew was what we were experiencing at that moment. We held on to each other, to our faith, and finally, to the assurances of people who had walked this road before us, that everything was going to be fine.
I wonder what we would have done had we not had the luxury of people who had walked the same path who were willing to share in our journey. Part of our maneuvering through these "rough" waters was through the remembering of friends and family who had stood where we stood. We learned the importance of community and sharing life together, but we also learned the importance of listening to the experience of others. We also counted ourselves fortunate and blessed for the fairly minor issue that our newborn was experiencing, much more minor than what some of our friends and family had experienced with their own little ones.
As we look into this Advent season, the season of waiting and expecting the coming Messiah, are we remembering what God has done in the past? Do we see his provision and faithfulness? Do we realize, in the midst of dark days, that others have negotiated these waters before us and survived? God's word through the prophets to the exiles was of hope, of a future, of redemption. May we never forget that God has made a way for our redemption, are we willing to receive it? We have a hope, we have a future, if we rest in the One who has provided us with the means to redemption, for us and the world.