We are a culture of looking backward. We reminisce, recall, ruminate, and reflect nostalgically. We create Facebook timelines and build libraries of home videos. I don’t know about you, but I live good chunks of my day “back in the day.” I listen to classic rock and pop music on my iPod when I work out, and I watch my favorite musicians of yesteryear performing on YouTube. Music reawakens old feelings of love and angst, memories of high school and the glory years of athletic endeavors. It brings to life that movie reel in my mind—early marriage, the kids growing up, summer vacations. Today’s music producers know of this love of old music and its soundtrack quality in our lives. They create remixes of old classic songs, much to the dismay of teenagers who watch their parents singing along with Top-40 songs in the ol’ SUV!
Television sports producers know this as well. There are channels aplenty on which classic games are rebroadcast, often with commentary by the players themselves, who now sport sagging bellies. Bruce Springsteen wrote a song (“Glory Days”) about those guys.
The thing about those rebroadcast classics is, the guys who watch them know how they’ll end. They know who will win the game. They know the details of the big comeback or the mistakes leading to the colossal choke. They can watch, over and over again, teams and fans streaming onto the field at game’s end. Tears come to their eyes when the captain raises the trophy over his head—again.
It’s surprising, really, that given our short lifespans we spend so much time reliving aspects of it.
I was thinking about this reliving of the story this past Christmas. We read Luke 2:8-20—the Christmas story—with renewed wonder at events long ago. And we do it every year. It’s a New Testament classic. We know the angels will appear. We know the inn will be full. We know Jesus will be born. Nothing will change in the story. Yet we marvel at it each year!
The thing about the Christmas story is that it actually isn’t over. While musicians and athletes fade away despite their preservation on YouTube, Jesus does not. He will not be replaced by a new Savior for today’s audience. He won’t be remixed to appeal to everyone. He remains the same, unchanging and steadfast.
And here’s the really awesome news. It’s going to happen again. Jesus is coming to the earth a second time. The past will no longer matter. Instead of reflecting on glory days to give us meaning, we Christians have the hope of a future glory on which our eyes can be firmly fixed. Paul talks of this future glory in Romans 8:18-25:
What we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.) (NLT)
No matter how long we gaze into the past, it will not change. Our memories will always end the same way. Hope comes with a future that will change everything. Jesus is coming, and when he does, everything will change. Spend your time looking at your present and your future to prepare for that day.
Let’s end our time with an older song titled, “Because He Lives I Can Face Tomorrow” (a hymn that instantly reminds me of my parents’ faith and my childhood church).
Ron DeBoer is a writer and educator living near Toronto.