“I will never leave you!”
“This is my last drink!”
“If you come back, I promise never to hit you again!”
“I will get you a doll for Christmas!”
There are promises that we really want to believe. We become cynical eventually, though, after many disappointments.
The Christmas Season is full of promises:
“…you are to be a crown of splendor in the hand of the Lord.”
“…she will give birth to a son, and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.”
“Wide is his dominion in a peace that has no end”
“They shall be called ‘The Holy People’, ‘The Lord’s Redeemed’”
“…all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.”
Those of us who have become accustomed to broken promises may have a “wait and see” attitude or, depending on the depth of our disappointment, “I’ll believe it when I see it!” We hope for signs that promises will be kept … the ring, the behavior changes, the doll sized package, maybe a family celebration without a drunken scandal. We need something to hold onto, to anchor our hope, because we really want to hope.
What sign are we given that God’s promises will be fulfilled? The sign we are given is the baby … not the full-grown savior, but a baby who will need years yet to grow into his role. A baby, with no “crown of splendor,” with no dominion, not yet saving anyone.
For a people oppressed for many years, for people who suffer, for populations who are migrating in our world, for people who know how much they need salvation, and for all of us, the sign is a baby. It may be enough to keep us hoping that God will be victorious. It may be enough to see the baby and know that he will grow up to save us.
The angels called the shepherds to rejoice, to be full of joy, already, with only the slightest glimmer of hope, with only a child in a manger. The angels sang. The shepherds glorified God. All were full of wonder, with their sign that the promise would be kept.
When was the last time we were in a dark moment, like Christmas eve in Bethlehem, and remembered to rejoice? When was the last time we smiled and laughed in defiance of the darkness? Let us try it. Let us sing with the angels, dance, and rejoice. Let joy fill us, even when we don’t have the answers yet, even when the darkness will continue a while yet. Let us rejoice in the signs we are given and the promises made to us. Let us hold onto the joy we know because we still want to believe in God’s promises.
We rejoice through our tears. We are joyful in the messiness of the child being born. We have hope that God’s promises will come to be realized in our lives and in our world. We leap for joy, not because we have our salvation but because the one who promised is trustworthy now and forever.