I have my Dad’s dog tags on my key ring. The two keys closest to the dog tags are the key to the church, and the key to my house. That means that every time I come to the church, or every time I go home, I remember my Dad. Each day I take a moment to remember the man that instilled in me my love for people and my gift (or curse) of humor. That simple little piece of metal reminds me of my parents, and all they did for me, and how much they loved me. And I am so thankful for the many doors they opened for me in my life. They helped shape me into the man I am today.
Jesus knew the importance of symbolism, and daily reminders. He took a simple loaf of bread and a cup of wine, and said, “Every time you do this, remember me”. He took unassuming objects that we see every day, and made them special. The bread and the cup have forever become symbols of how much God loves us, and how much God has done for us, and how the grace and mercy of God has shaped us into the people we are today.
As we enter the season of Advent, we again encounter powerful symbolism. A child in a shepherd’s shawls, boys and girls dressed as angels, or maybe three kids in bathrobes with some silver garnish become powerful reminders of that first Christmas so long ago. We sing “Silent Night”, “Away in the Manger” and “Joy to the World” and we remember Joseph and Mary outside the Inn in Bethlehem. We see a makeshift manger and some straw, and we remember the humble place where Jesus was born. Even the evergreens adorned with lights and topped with a star remind us that the Light of the World has come to give us peace. The sweet symbolism of Christmas, brought to mind again as we share the story of the birth of Christ.
A small piece of metal given to a teenage boy in the service of his country has become for me a precious symbol of loving parents and a nurturing home. But even that pales in comparison to the symbols that surround us during this Advent season. The sights and sounds of Christmas remind us again of the most powerful love imaginable: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son…” Pastor John