I would wager that most of you of a certain age can sing the first verse or two of one of our very first Christmas carols, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman”. I’m equally confident that unless you are a music major or major nerd, you can’t recite the last verse. That’s typical of our usual model of memory and knowledge. We know a little of this and a lot of that and the gist of something else. We fill in the blanks of our memory bank with Google, or perhaps by borrowing the memory of a friend. After all, we can’t be expected to recall everything we have ever seen and heard, unless we’re one of those rare individuals with superior autobiographical memory. Personally, I prefer to be ordinary and have a few gaps in my recollections.
However, there is an inherent danger in knowing only the basics of something important, such as our laws or moral principles. In times of challenge it’s very important that we know what we believe and why. In times of crisis it’s crucial. Our brain needs to guide us. Our heart needs to seek understanding. Without memory we may not be able to defend ourselves against evil rhetoric. Without knowledge we may not recognize manipulation and distortion of the truth. In our daily encounters with other people we don’t always have the luxury of time and opportunity to search the internet for answers. We have to carry them with us in our hearts and souls. The only way to do that is to continuously fill our brains with information.
For years I had trouble understanding most of the Bible, because I seldom read it. I know, I know…astonishing that it took me so long to make that connection. But many people do exactly the same thing all the time. They base their knowledge of the Bible on what they hear in church or on television or from someone they respect, and never read or verify anything directly from the Word. There was a time in our history when that was the custom because few people could read and even fewer had access to Bibles. But we are blessed to be able to read and hear the Word in a variety of ways! We’re just too “busy” and lazy to do so.
The Bible tells us over and over that we need to read and understand what we believe. We are encouraged to write it down, remember it, and teach it to our children. Romans says that faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of God. I would add that my own reading and understanding has resulted in an increase in comfort and joy. Both are antidotes for the daily dose of death and despair we encounter on the news. Proverbs 2 says it best:
10 When wisdom enters your heart,
And knowledge is pleasant to your soul,
11 Discretion will preserve you;
Understanding will keep you,
12 To deliver you from the way of evil,
From the man who speaks perverse things,
13 From those who leave the paths of uprightness
To walk in the ways of darkness;
14 Who rejoice in doing evil,
And delight in the perversity of the wicked;
15 Whose ways are crooked,
And who are devious in their paths;
And by the way, here is the last verse of the song:
Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth deface.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy.