In the beginning God created everything from nothing. Using words, God spoke into existence day and night, sky and ground, plants and animals, humans too, declaring everything “good” and then resting. God created everything in hope, a hope that the universe would develop and thrive, a reflection of God’s creative love and order.
But we all know what happens, particularly among us humans. We fight. We lie. We cheat. We destroy. As great as our capacity for good is, so great is our capacity for evil. Still, God saw the good creation—even under the burden of brokenness—and God promised not to abandon it.
Throughout time God has been making a way to keep the promise to bring light and life into the universe. God spoke those promises in various times and to various people. To Abraham and Sarah—the promise to make of them a great nation to be a blessing to all the families of the earth. To Moses—the promise to free the people from slavery. To Ruth—the promise to deal kindly with her as she left behind her people to be with her grieving mother-in-law. Story after story of God’s promises kept we see throughout Scripture.
Even in the mess and the brokenness, God is making a way.
That’s what brings us here tonight. Two thousand years ago, God spoke to Mary and told her she would bear a son—a miracle child—God’s Son and her son. God’s promises would be kept this time through a young woman, unexpectedly pregnant, yet willing to receive God’s promise within her.
Mary kept her promise too. Through all the joys and challenges of raising a child, she was there for Jesus. She held him when he was sick. She fed him when he was hungry. She sent him to learn the Scriptures. I can imagine her praying every night for Jesus, especially as he went off into the world without a dime to his name, wandering from town to town not knowing where he would sleep. She kept her promise all the way to the end, one of those grieving for Jesus as he hung on a Roman cross. I thank God that Mary kept her promises.
Mary’s husband, Joseph, also kept his promises. In the awkward situation of having Mary be pregnant before their marriage, Joseph resolutely and righteously heard God’s promise of who this child would be, and he made sure he was there for Mary and Jesus. He went to work day after day building the Roman town of Sepphoris, a short journey north from Nazareth. Jesus would have accompanied him on that walk and in that work when the time was right. Joseph was faithful in shaping his son, God’s Son, for the kind of life he came to live. Joseph kept his promises to Mary and to God. I thank God that Joseph kept his promises.
All of these promises kept throughout history—by Abraham and Sarah and Moses and Ruth and Mary and Joseph—are all a glimpse into the bigger promise that God was keeping in sending Jesus to be the Savior of the world.
God was faithful.
Through centuries of the ups and downs of human history, God was making a way to bring restoration to the whole creation. It all culminated in Jesus, born of Mary, the person whose birth we anticipate and celebrate on this holy night. Through Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection, God is faithfully keeping the promise to bring healing and restoration to the world.
But this is not just something that happened way back when, a nice story to encourage us when times are dark.
God is faithful still.
God is keeping promises. Through you. Through me.
Through the church, we are a part of pointing to these promises. We are reminders of hope. We are shining light into the darkness, speaking hope into despair, and bearing love to everyone everywhere.
Jesus was born 2000 years ago. That’s a long time ago, but his birth is a sign of promises kept. It’s also a calling for us to cling to those promises. I can’t hope to know how each of you are feeling on this Christmas Eve. You may be at peace. You may be hurting. You may be angry or fearful. You may be happy. Whatever your condition, know that God keeps promises and that those promises speak into your life a peace, hope, joy, and love that is deeper than my words can ever describe.
From the beginning of time to this very second, God is working out salvation from all that burdens us and from all that burdens the entire creation. My Christmas hope and prayer for us is this: No matter our circumstance or mood, that we would know deep in our very souls that God loves us, that God’s promises are true for us, and that it’s our joy to share that love and hope with all.
Jesus has come. Jesus is coming. Be steadfast in hope. God is a promise keeper.