Friday, December 09, 2005

At Christmas - God's Promises Fulfilled

"Today's Devotion" For December 9, 2005

Read: Luke 1:57-66; Psalm 138


"The Lord will fulfill His purposes for me; Your love, O Lord, endures forever -- do not abandon the works of Your hands." (Ps. 138:8)

Have you ever thought about why people make promises? It seems reasonable to assume that promises usually have purposes. Promises are made with an end in mind, whether altruistic or selfish. How often aren't promises made to alleviate the stress or tension of a situation? As children didn't it always seemed easier to say, "Yes, Mom, I'll get it done," than it did to openly refuse to do what was expected? Quite possibly you'll remember thinking, "If I put it off long enough and keep Mom at bay with my promise to do what she wants, she'll eventually forget about it or do it herself" (perhaps not with such sophistication, but the same principle). As adults, it seems that people still don't really grow out of that, "Let me see if I can get away with this by promising something I don't intend to follow through on" mindset.

Evidence of such thinking is all around us. Sales and marketing seems to be filled with more hype than fact. Promises about the quality and effectiveness of products are frequently couched in "weasel" words so that if a product doesn't perform as promised the company is only marginally responsible. Have you noticed how full of promise the advertisements of new drugs and medicines have become? The airways are filled with this or that new drug treatment for the disease du jour, touting the great healing properties each drug holds for its intended application, only to be followed by a laundry list of possible side effects and the reasons it shouldn't be taken. Certainly, each of us can think of other "promises" made and then equivocated, not the least of which might be what's seen in much of our nation's political and judicial processes. In short, we human beings are long on promises and short on actions. We make promises not only that we can't keep, but promises we don't intend to keep.

Into this mess of uncertainty and distrust comes our loving and gracious Father in heaven whose promises aren't made without the assurance that they will not only happen but will over deliver. As we look at the promises of God to redeem His people from their sins, we see His promises to send someone to "prepare the way of the Lord, make straight paths for Him" (Is. 42;16). He sent the Angel Gabriel to Zechariah, a priest of God, to let him know that this promise of God was to be fulfilled through him and his wife, Elizabeth. As we have already noted in the earlier section of Luke 1, Zechariah found it hard to believe God's promise - it was too outlandish and too improbable for him. This promise was just "too good to be true." For his doubting and distrust of God's promise, Zechariah became mute until the day God's promise came true in the household of Zechariah and Elizabeth, and John, who is known to this day as John the Baptist, was born.

It's not just enough for us to hear God's promises. By God's standards it's not just enough on His part that we trust and believe His promises. According to His love for us, it's also essential that His promises come true and accomplish what He has promised. That's God's standard, not ours. And He follows through. Nine months after Zechariah was muted, Elizabeth gave birth to their only child, a son. God had spoken; God had delivered. In accordance with God's will and command, in contravention of all Jewish tradition, Zechariah wrote the child's name, "John" (tradition held he should be named "after his father"). Immediately, Zechariah's tongue was loosed to praise and glorify God. The result - the neighbors were filled with awe and the word of this miraculous and marvelous occurrence spread throughout the countryside, and they all wondered what John was to be.

As we approach the solemn feast of Christmas, it's not enough for us to just remember God's promises. It's also essential that we believe them and see them fulfilled. John the Baptist's birth and his subsequent ministry fulfilled God's promises through the prophets, and, most immediately, to Zechariah. No less does God fulfill His promise to us each and every day of our lives. His love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness in Christ is ours each day. By His Word and Spirit He lifts us up to Himself and declares us righteous before Him. We don't just remember God's promises at Christmas, we also revel in their fulfillment. Even more, we look for His promises fulfilled in us each and every day in our Baptisms through which He has made us His very own, heirs of eternal life. And, by His grace and mercy, through faith in Jesus, we await the ultimate culmination of His sure and certain promises to take us to be with Him forever in heaven.

Prayer: Father, as the world approaches the solemn feast of Christmas, I realize that many people don't even know Your promises, much less believe them. Even though You always keep Your Word and fulfill Your promises, I find that even I doubt them at times. Yet, as Your fulfilled Your greatest promise by sending Jesus to be the Savior of the world, so also, in Him do You bring to pass every other promise You've ever made to redeem and save the world from Sin, Death, and Satan. Remind me, as Your reminded Zechariah, that You are faithful in all things. Through Your gift to me of faith in Jesus Christ, lead me to joyfully and hopefully share Your promises with others so they, too, might trust and believe Your promises and be saved. In Jesus' precious name I pray. Amen.

--Pastor Boeck

Copyright (c) 2005 Rev. Richard J. Boeck, Jr. All rights reserved.

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