Remembering is the First Step Forward

December 1, 2023 by Sherry Elliott (TUR)

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “the one who is and was and is coming, the Almighty.”

Revelation 1:8 (CEB)

As I settle into the second half of my life and edge closer to retirement, I realize that the Christmas season is as much about remembering as it is about preparation and anticipation. I love nothing more than to sit with my sister and brothers and bring to life our Christmas past, remembering favorite holiday comfort foods, decorations from our childhood home, the wished-for gifts, church pageants, and other fond memories. These conversations make us laugh (and cry), no matter how many times we have heard the stories. Remembering has become a spiritual practice that helps me not to forget what’s truly important.   

The Upper Room celebrated several significant milestones this year, which has the staff in a remembering posture. We are commemorating the 70th anniversary of The Upper Room Chapel, a place where the world meets to pray, located at the heart of our headquarters in Nashville. Our legacy programs, The Academy for Spiritual Formation (1983) and Emmaus Ministries (1978), are celebrating notable anniversaries, and El Aposento Alto, our Spanish language edition of The Upper Room, has been in publication for 85 years and is now distributed in 16 countries.   

Not long ago, our staff drafted six guiding principles to define and shape our life together. At the top of the list is to “Honor God’s presence that has shaped our past and guides our future.” This principle serves as a holy reminder that God is our constant companion. God is “the one who is and was and is coming.” When we recall and reflect on all that God has done, we can imagine what’s possible for the future, like the people of scripture who remembered their deliverance story as they waited for the promised Messiah.   

In his book, Near Occasions of Grace, Richard Rohr writes, “Our remembrance that God has remembered us will be the highway into the future, the straight path of the Lord promised by John the Baptizer [Luke 3:3–6]. Where there is no memory, there will be no pain, but neither will there be hope.”

Our dear faithful friends, thank you for all the ways you have remembered The Upper Room this year. You have supported, encouraged, and given us hope in so many beautiful ways. With God’s help, you have made these anniversary stories possible. Please know that we hold you close, pray for you, and give thanks for your kindness.

May the peace of Christ bring you great joy this Christmas season.

Sherry Elliott is the Executive Director of Administration, Interpretation, and Development at The Upper Room. 

This article appeared in the Advent 2023 Fellowship Focus newsletter for friends and donors of The Upper Room. Click the image below to view the complete newsletter.

Journal Prompts

Remember your experiences throughout 2023 and reflect on the following questions.

In what moments did you feel God's presence most distinctly this year? Were there times you struggled to feel this presence? 

As you enter the season of Advent, how might remembering be part of your preparation? What lessons and insights help you enter the season with hope?

Share your responses with others in the comments below!

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