A few years ago, I was driving around town doing the after-school shuffle. I dropped off my youngest at swim team and rushed to the middle school to pick up my middle son. One of his friends needed a ride, so I gladly ran him home. I planned to return library books and pick up a prescription before heading home for supper.
I was zipping around town, feeling super productive and on top of my taxi-mom game. So, I was slightly annoyed when the large red pickup in front of me slowed to a crawl.
Our town isn’t large, but we were on a main street. It runs past the state Capitol, the beautifully landscaped Capitol Lake, the middle school, and a myriad of government buildings. But all of that was in my rear-view mirror when the break lights jerked me from my vehicular efficiency.
I’m not one to road-rage, but I have been known to mumble while driving.
What are you doing?
Go. Go. Go.
But the big red pickup did not go.
The driver could have veered left and driven past the Governor’s mansion. He could have veered right to meet up with the highway that leads out of town.
Instead, he pulled over right where that main street forks and parked beside the triangular patch of grass between the two routes.
I was slightly alarmed when the driver’s side door opened. I wondered if I was about to become a victim of small-town road rage.
Was I following too close?
Had he seen me pound my steering wheel?
Maybe he could sense my irritation.
But he waved me around him, and I carefully passed him on the left.
“What on earth is he doing?” I mumbled.
As I glanced into my rear-view mirror, I saw him helping a little girl out of the passenger side. He took her by the hand, and they walked through the grass at the awkward and busy fork-in-the-road to view the monument standing at the center.
For 17 years, I’ve driven by that monument, but all I’ve seen was a triangular patch of poorly placed grass. I have never stopped to view the statue or read the plaque. I can’t tell you who it honors or what it commemorates because I’ve been too hurried to notice, much less stop.
A monument is something we build or display in memory of a person or event. It’s meant to be a gift to posterity so we can give the gift of honor and retell the story.
But if we never stop to look, read, or remember, we won’t properly honor the person or be able to tell others what happened there.
When God stopped the Jordan River so his people could enter the promised land, he told Joshua to have 12 men bring a stone out of the river to create a memorial, or a monument, so they could remember what God had done.
Joshua told the people that in the future, when their children ask, ‘What do these stones mean?” they’d be reminded to recount what God had done there (See Joshua 4:1-9).
Monuments help us remember.
‘Tis the season for many long-remembered traditions to surface. We string lights on evergreens. On the plains of the Midwest, even the cottonwoods are good candidates for a Christmas light display.
Retailers run sales on snow blowers and wrapping paper. Organizations host fundraisers and coat drives. Kids thumb through catalogs and make helpful lists for parents and Santa. Parents hide unwrapped gifts in nooks and crannies until they have a chance to wrap them.
Year after year, we happily, and sometimes frantically, whiz through the season without stopping to remember and tell about the reason our monumental traditions exist.
We plunged into this year with plans for a “2020 vision for the future.” But it turns out we couldn’t even see the forced slow-down that was just a few weeks away. We collectively pulled over on the thoroughfare of our schedules and parked for a while.
Your internal driver might be banging on the steering wheel of your calendar chanting, “Go. Go. Go.” But while you’re already slowed down, maybe you can park beside a monument you normally pass, even if the world zooms by.
Why do we celebrate Christmas? What was so monumental about it that we still celebrate? Who was there?
If we peer through history’s frosted window and look at Scripture, maybe we can get some answers.
If you’re ready to view the monuments that tell the story of what God has done for you, join me this month in reading Remarkable Advent.
Every day we’ll stop at one scene in the story of Christ’s birth. We’ll slow down to see who was there and what might have happened. We’ll honor the people who participated and the God who orchestrated it.
But we’ll find that we are the recipients of the gift that came to Bethlehem on that very first Christmas before anybody knew what Christmas was.
Slow down. Park yourself where you can reflect on God’s monumental goodness to us through the birth of Jesus.
If you’re not sure where to begin, here are a few suggestions.
- Start with Scripture: Read Luke 2 and Matthew 1. If you’ve read it a million times and it sounds unremarkable, try reading it in a different version. Read it out loud or have someone read it aloud to you. You can also listen on your Bible App.
- Read a daily Advent devotional to keep your heart and mind focused on the reason we celebrate. May I recommend Remarkable Advent (affiliate link), a 25-day devotional by me? Many families have used it as a daily read-aloud, and children as young as 6 have enjoyed it. (People as old as 78 have also enjoyed it…I’m looking at you, uncle Fred!)
- Stick with your plan, and don’t quit just because you “missed a day” (I’m preaching to myself here!)
Don’t let anyone hurry you past Christmas, because Jesus isn’t merely worth remembering, he’s worth worshiping.
Come, and let us adore him.
Find my other Advent & Christmas book recommendations here.