FULLY ALIVE!

Your life will be as bright as the noonday sun. Job 11:17


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Fourth Sunday of Advent

Keeping promises is important; many consider one’s word a measure of one’s worth – one should be “as good as his word.”

As controversial as the recent US presidential campaign and election were, that President-Elect Trump may be reneging on some of his campaign promises is even more controversial and upsetting for many. CNN reports that Trump is open to keeping parts of Obamacare intact despite repeatedly vowing on the campaign trail to “repeal and replace” the program. He also appears to be walking away from his promise to “shutdown” Muslim immigration to the US. We all remember his promise to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate and convict Hillary Clinton – a promise that spurred his supporters to chant, “Lock her up” during the campaign rallies. Post-election, Trump says, regarding investigating Hillary, “It’s not something I’ve given a lot of thought.”

Repealing Obamacare, shutting down immigration or investigating Clinton might all be viewed less significant at present than the keeping or breaking of promises.

Dr. Melissa Ritter, a psychologist-psychoanalyst with the William Alanson Institute, wrote, “There are a number of commonly understood reasons promises are broken, including that our feelings, capacity, or circumstances have changed over time. The fading of romantic love for one’s partner is emblematic of this—what once was is no more. The death of a loved one, the loss of a job, the birth of a child, falling in love, and developing illness, to list but a few, are all events that can shift our feelings and consequent behavior—often monumentally. We may no longer have the capability or willingness to keep a specific promise, or it may no longer benefit those concerned to do so.” In short, people change and circumstances change, so promises are broken.

Christmas is a season when many people experience disappointment and heartbreak because of broken promises. Someone will not give the promised gift. Another will not receive a promised gift. Someone will not keep the promise to visit. Another will break a promise to join someone for dinner. Someone will break a promise to go shopping, lend money, wrap the presents, put the bicycle together, babysit the kids… A lot of promises will be broken – some for “good” reason, others “just because.”

Thankfully, Christmas is also a time when one of the greatest promises was kept – God’s promise of a Messiah. In fact, with the birth of Jesus, many promises were kept.

  • God promised that the Messiah would be the seed of a woman and would crush the head of Satan (Genesis 3:15). Scripture tells us that He would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). Jesus was born to the virgin, Mary, and on the cross He crushed the head of Satan.
  • Scripture records that He would be born in Bethlehem of Judah (Micah 5:2).
  • He would come from the seed/offspring of Abraham and would bless all the nations on earth (Genesis 12:3), and He would have a throne, a kingdom and a dynasty, or house, starting with King David, that will last forever (2 Samuel 7:16). Matthew begins his Gospel: “A record of the origin of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac…” and continues on until “…and Jacob begot Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”

These are but five examples of promises kept. That alone is amazing as many of us struggle to keep just one promise. Remember Dr. Ritter’s research?

Here’s what I want you to take away from this week’s message. Our God is faithful (Deuteronomy 7:9, 2 Thessalonians 3:3, 1 Corinthians 1:9, Psalm 33:4). In fact, 2 Corinthians 1:20 tells us that all His promises are “Yes.” The Berean Study Bible writes it this way: “For all the promises of God are “Yes” in Christ.” The Holman Christian Standard Bible writes, “For every one of God’s promises is “Yes” in Him” and the Weymouth New Testament writes, “For all the promises of God, whatever their number, have their confirmation in Him.”

Matthew Henry notes in his commentary of 2 Corinthians 1:20 that a good man will not change his promise “unless for weighty reasons,” but “nothing can render God’s promises more certain;” He gives them to us “through Christ” and “assures us they are His promises.” You will note that even a good man may have reason enough to step away from his promises, but God is faithful, and always answers His promises with “Yes!” This, writes Henry, “makes Christians firm in the faith.” We can be confident that our God is Who He said He is, that He will do what He said He would do and that we are who He said we are in Him!

Rejoice this fourth Sunday of Advent. Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name! For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations (Psalm 100:4-5); hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).


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Third Sunday of Advent

Confession. I’m not good at waiting.

I’m working on it. Have been. For at least…well, let’s just say, a lot of years!

This is one (just one) reason I am always both amazed and encouraged when I read of the promises of a Messiah to the people of Israel.

First, the promise. Through his trickery and scheming, Satan had brought a curse upon Adam, Eve and their offspring. Adam and Eve’s sin separated them and their offspring from God. More than a millennium before the birth of Jesus, God, knowing man’s proclivity to sin, promised One would come, seed of the woman, and He would bring Satan’s destruction and man’s deliverance (Genesis 3).

Then, the anticipation. Surely it began with Adam and Eve when the Scriptures tell us that “Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived” (Genesis 4:1a). Was this the seed? Was this the Savior?  Through the years the Jews anticipated the promised Messiah – a savior who would restore the former glory of Kingdom of Israel. From the Mosaic Covenant (The Old Testament), we know that God kept His promises, thus the Jews rightly and wisely expected and anticipated the fulfillment of the messianic prophecy. Surely with each struggle, each war, each captivity, the Jews anticipated their coming Savior. Their rabbis, scribes and Jewish priests had taught them that the Messiah would not just come but would overcome their enemies. Surely many women wondered if their seed would be the Savior.

Finally, the wait. Daniel, the prophet of the Biblical book of Daniel, prophesied the year of the Messiah’s arrival saying that the Messiah would come 483 years after the orders would be given to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Keep in mind that by the time we get to Daniel’s day, hundreds of years have already passed since God’s promise to Adam and Eve.  Still, they waited.

They waited, yes!  But they waited in anticipation, expecting, attentive and in hope. They did not wait passively with crossed fingers; they did not just endure their hardships. They had set their sights on a promise from their faithful God. Theirs was a posture of waiting.

Ours, too, is to be a posture of waiting.

In one of his sermons, John Henry Newman wrote, “We are not simply to believe, but to watch; not simply to love, but to watch; not simply to obey, but to watch; to watch for what?  For the great event – Christ’s coming!”

So what exactly is our posture of waiting? It is those actions Newman noted between the “watching.” We are to believe, to love, to obey.

Advent is a yearly reminder, a yearly opportunity and a yearly invitation to check our posture.