I keep hearing the deejays say on the radio that “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” But that’s all they are promising, and given the news headlines, I wonder if they are trying to convince us, or themselves. And it’s only a few days into December, and already moms are looking a little wild-eyed at the shopping and the decorating and the parties of Christmas. The calendar promises a regular holiday whirlwind that might distract from the real-life reports from the doctor, and the daily work pressures, and the loneliness; but we all know how those sit on our hearts, at the end of the day.
To be honest, some years it is hard to get excited about the season, and some years it feels like I am decorating this evergreen tree by faith, stepping out into Celebration when my heart hasn’t quite caught up yet. But I do it anyway. Because the only promise that matters was fulfilled right before our eyes on Christmas: the Babe is born into our dirt and noise, and He will save us from our sin.
It’s the oldest promise in the Book, the one that comes right after Adam and Eve wrecked the world, and veiled in the figurative language of prophecy. And weren’t all the generations since, just building their lives on faith? From Sarah who birthed her promised son at the ripe old age of ninety and laughed at the sheer ridiculous wonder of it, right down to Anna who spent her solitary life camped out on the doorstep of the House of the Lord, praying and waiting for the Anointed One.
Isaiah sings out the promise most clearly: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6) The angel messenger carries the promise to a young girl in her parents’ home, “…the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35) And the angel armies in the skies above Bethlehem pick up the refrain, shouting it to the hilltops: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)
We too lift our voices at Christmas, put up our trees to remember the promise, and we light them in full hope of God’s faithfulness. “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:20)
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)
“Meanwhile, this grand primeval promise, “The seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent,” would stand out as a beacon-light to all mankind on their way, burning brighter and brighter, first in the promise to Shem, next in that to Abraham, then in the prophecy of Jacob, and so on through the types of the Law to the promises of the Prophets, till in the fullness of time “the Sun of Righteousness” arose “with healing under His wings!” (Alfred Edersheim, Old Testament History)