What a palaver! We were all sorted with our Christmas presents. We’d worked out which ones we needed to post and got Amazon to deliver others directly. We knew that we would be seeing part of the family during the 5 day Christmas relaxations and so we’d bought presents and got them wrapped ready to take up to West Yorkshire. Then came the about turn, festivities were halted, plans cancelled, hopes crushed. There will be no journey up the M1, presents will have to wait to be delivered and disappointed family members will have to wait a little longer for that re-union.
Our Christmas theme has been all about “The Promise.” We’ve been looking at promises God made that were fulfilled in Christ at that first Christmas and I guess that a big question for us has been “Can we trust God to keep his promises to us? In a world where politicians break their promises regularly, where scientists get their predictions wrong, where so many of us often find ourselves let down by those closest to us and if we are honest break our own promises.
So I want to talk here about how we can have confidence that God is not just a promise maker but a promise keeper too. First of all, let’s remind ourselves of what the specific promise concerning Jesus entails.
The Promise is Jesus
- The Serpent Crusher
Jesus is the one, born of a woman, a descendant of Eve who came to defeat evil. We have an enemy, Satan. This enemy is only concerned for himself, since his fall, he has been seeking power, to dethrone God. He attempts that by working his way into our lives. His approach is twofold. First, he tries to tempt us to doubt God, to become proud, bitter and envious, to stop loving God and each other, to become selfish. Second, he seeks to accuse, to constantly remind us that we are failures, to point our guilt in order to cause is shame.
Jesus is the one who defeated Satan. At the Cross, he took the penalty of sin. This means that the Devil has no basis for accusing us. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit has come to help us say no to temptation.
- The Blessing Bringer
Jesus is the descendant of Abraham. Sin has brought curse upon the whole world, we see it in the suffering, sickness and death that we experience. Christ’s death on the Cross lifts the curse. The first part of that is that we can be forgiven, no longer under the penalty of death and Hell. One day Christ will return to bring about the end of all suffering so that the curse will be completely removed.
- The Shepherd of God’s people
Like a good shepherd, Jesus came to seek out those who were lost and gather them safely in. He provides for us, all that we need. Christ is enough for me. He protects us. His provision, his food is the Gospel because it is life giving. He protects us by leading us safely through the valley of the shadow of death meaning that we do not need to fear evil. Death does not have the last word.
- A Son out Egypt
Jesus is the one who retraced the footsteps, not just of Israel but of all people, where we are like a disobedient son, loved by God but rebellious and unfaithful, Jesus is the good and faithful son. He lived an obedient life so that his righteousness is credited to us and we are justified.
- Coming with the Clouds
Our last “promise” is a sneak preview to the final part of the series. We will see that Christ is the true king and ruler of creation. He is coming back to make all things new and to end suffering for ever. There will be a new heaven and a new earth and we will be with him free from sin and its consequences for eternity.
So, the promise for us that we see in the Christmas message is one of forgiveness, the destruction of evil, an end to suffering, the hope of eternity with Christ. The promise is God’s permanent unshakeable love for us, of grace and mercy. The promise is peace and reconciliation to God. This peace and reconciliation with God brings peace and reconciliation between one another.
A Promise kept in Person
Every so often, we arrange for work to be done on the house. Sometimes everything goes smoothly sometimes less so. It’s very frustrating when the workmen are late, parts don’t turn up or are broken and have to be returned, the work is shoddy and it is left half done. Sometimes the workmen create more mess than good. We’ve all been there.
So, there is something reassuring about the person turning up to agree the quote shaking your hand (assuming it’s not in the middle of a pandemic) and saying.
“This is my company. I founded it. I built up it’s reputation for quality work and I will be here on the day to ensure the work is done.”
How do we know that God can be trusted to keep his promises? The answer is “Because God showed up in person.”
This is what John 1 is all about. John 1:1 tells us that Jesus (referred to as the Word) was not just with God in the beginning, he is the creator God. Jesus is the one who brngs light in the darkness, light that banishes the darkness of cruelty, hatred, bitterness, bullying, abuse, manipulation and lies. Light from which the darkness of evil must flee (John 1:5).
And, then we have those fantastic words
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son[d] from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Remember that the Word, Jesus, is God. God has shown up in the person of Jesus. He has not just sent messengers and signs, not just sent some junior team workers. He arrived to fulfil the promises. He has “dwelt among us” -pitched his tent, made his home, moved in with us. That is what God has done. One of the names for Jesus is “Emmanuel” – God with us.
John goes on to say “we have seen his glory.” This idea of his glory, his beauty, majesty, power and worth is often explicitly and implicitly linked to the Cross where Jesus died as The King. We have seen his glory in the Gospel, in the good news that Jesus died in our place, bearing our sin, shame and guilt. We have seen his glory because he has risen from the dead so that we can be certain of eternal life.
How can we be sure that God keeps his promises, that he has kept his promise. We can be sure because he showed up in person to deliver on his word. This was seen and confirmed by eye witnesses whose word has been checked out and verified carefully. It’s results have been experienced by so many people around the world and throughout history. I can personally testify and say “Yes God is good, he keeps his promises.”
This Christmas amid the gloom of shattered hopes and out of the pain of broken promises, I invite you to come Christ, the one at the centre of Christmas, the promise keeper that it is all about. Put your trust in him and he will never let you down.