Honor Your Father and Mother in Memory

By Mark D. Roberts

December 10, 2019

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

Ephesians 6:1-3 (NIV)


Before we leave the command in Ephesians to honor our parents, one borrowed from the Ten Commandments, I’d like to share something I’ve learned about honoring one’s parents even when they are no longer alive.

A lit Christmas tree in the distance of a roomPeople have many different ways of doing this. Some visit the graves of their parents on special occasions. Others hold on to keepsakes that remind them of their mom or their dad. Others offer regular prayers of thanks for their parents. Many pass on memories of their parents to their own children and grandchildren. The possibilities are limitless.

I honor my mother in several of these ways, but in one that is rather unusual. It’s especially wonderful to share this with you in this season of the year, as we prepare to celebrate Christmas. You see, my mom loved Christmas. She loved its true meaning as a time to focus on the birth of the Savior. But she also loved the cultural trappings of Christmas, especially decorations. Throughout her life, she would fill her home with all sorts of decorations, many of which she made herself. She always put up lots of Christmas lights, getting help on the outside lights from my dad, and then from my brother after my dad passed away.

Shortly before Christmas three years ago, my mom was dying of cancer. We all knew that she had relatively few days to live. Without really thinking about what I was doing, I went to the store and bought tons of Christmas lights. I spent hours putting them up in front of our house. As you can imagine, I was thinking most of the time about my mom and her love for Christmas. When I finished with the lights, my wife said to me, “Well, that’s a great way for you to work out your grief.” Indeed, it was. I was grieving to be sure, but also feeling thankful for my mom and for the truth that Christ understood the pain I was feeling.

My mom died early in December of 2016. In the following years, I have continued to put up a ridiculous number of Christmas lights. (You can check out a photo here.) I do this because I enjoy it and because my neighbors love it. But, this is also a way for me to honor my mom, to remember her with gladness, to live out in my life her love of Christmas. I can’t honor my parents directly anymore, since they are both with the Lord. But I can honor them in memory and in actions that bring memories to life.

Something to Think About:

Do you have ways of honoring people who have gone to be with the Lord? What are they?

In what ways have you been inspired by the example of your parents or grandparents?

Something to Do:

Find a way to honor your parents this week, no matter whether they are on earth or in heaven.


Gracious God, thank you for the lives of those who have gone before us to be with you. Thank you for the chance to remember them. Thank you for their influence on our lives and their testimony to you in word and deed. Amen.

Explore more at The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project:
The Fifth Commandment: Honor Your Parents

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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