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Sunday, 17 December 2017

December 17, 2017

Power of God's Promises - Advent 3

Power of God’s Promise – Advent 3

December 17, 2017

Isaiah 55:1-11

 

“This won’t hurt a bit.”

 

“It will just be a moment.”

 

“You’ll love this.”

 

“It’s not difficult.”

 

“I’ll pay you back soon.”

 

Promises.  How often can you believe them?  Sometimes people mean well.  Sometimes they don’t.  It’s a wonderful thing when promises are kept and a very difficult thing when they are not. 

 

What happens when promises are not kept?  We lose trust.  What happens when we lose trust?  We can be filled with fear and/or anger.

 

The Bible calls them “covenants”.  They are highly important promises of God.  They are unconditional.  Nothing was demanded of those with whom the covenants were made.

 

After the flood God made a covenant with Noah and all humankind.  He promised he would not flood the world again.  God made a covenant with Abraham and his descendants.  God promised he would make them a great nation.  God made a covenant with Moses.  He promised that he was and would be their God forever.  And God made a covenant with David. He promised that a descendent of David would be the Messiah, the savior of the world.

 

The people of Israel must have wondered about God’s covenants.  The no flood promise had been kept, but the great nation promise and the “I will be your God” promise seemed to be in doubt.  For many there must have been that reaction to lack of trust in God.  There must have been at least some fear and anger.  Was there a God? Had he deserted them?

 

The Israel had been a door mat.  They had been made slaves in Egypt, but God had set them free.  Then first the Assyrians and then the Babylonians had invaded, looted, destroyed and taken captive.  Isaiah had told the people of Israel that their refusal to worship the one God and only the one God had been the root cause of their distress.

 

But God had begun to turn things around.  The Persians had defeated the Babylonians and Cyrus, King of Persia, had set the captives free.  Isaiah invites the returning people of Israel to celebrate their freedom.  He reminds them of God’s promise of an everlasting covenant. Isaiah even tells of a suffering servant who will bring healing and new life.

The waiting must have been difficult.  The troubles of the people of Israel would continue.  They would be invaded and conquered by the Greeks.  They would be invaded and conquered by the Romans.  The covenant promise of the house of David must have seemed shattered.  How could they have hope?  How could they trust God, or even believe in him?  Who would blame them if they were angry and afraid?

 

The Messiah came.  We’re one week from celebrating his coming.  While we’ll hear the story of the birth in Bethlehem, we can’t forget that Jesus came to be the suffering servant Isaiah had predicted.  He would be despised and rejected . . . and killed.  Even at Christmas we can’t forget Good Friday and Easter.  Here’s where we find real fulfillment of the covenant.  “By his wounds we are healed.” We have the promise of forgiveness, eternal life and unending love.

 

It’s the message of Advent. God kept his promise.  Jesus came.  God continues the promise.  Jesus will come again and destroy forever the powers of sin, death and evil.  And Jesus is here today.

 

Today a little girl receives the covenant promise of baptism.  She officially becomes a child of God and is guaranteed God’s loving care forever.

 

Today we share the meal of forgiveness and hope and life.  Today Jesus promises he is with us in bread and wine and lets us know that we are not now and never will be outside his loving care.

 

Today we are reminded that, despite the darkness inside and outside, the light can never be overcome and God will keep us in his care forever.  It’s God’s promise.

 

Broken promises lead to lack of trust. Lack of trust leads to fear and anger.

 

Kept promises lead to trust.  Trust leads to joy and joy can never be taken away.

 

We all have scars from broken promises and, like it or not, we cannot fully trust people and the promises they make . . . even at Christmas time.

 

But we can trust God and that gives us the ability to love others, knowing that God has promised that he will never stop loving us.  Trusting in God’s promises leads to joy.  We can share the gift of God’s love and, by doing so, bring joy to the world.  AMEN