1st Sunday in Advent, 2015
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Children have an astounding talent of remembering. They remember all kinds of small details, they remember things they hear from others, they remember bad words we wish we never said in front of them, they remember things that we promise. So often children remember things we wish they didn’t and things we never thought they would. One of my greatest joys as a Pastor is watching little children learning the parts of the liturgy, prayers, creeds, and hymns as they hear them. What a wonderful reminder of why to have your children in church. Often we don’t think they are listening or paying attention…but they are.
As a child…I seemed to remember every promise my parents would make to me…or at least every promise I thought they made with me. Whenever my parents didn’t give me what was promised…I would have a fit and remind them. Many times they had not forgotten…but were making me wait and other times they did indeed forget. This they had a habit of calling “Some-timers” disease. This is a disease I despised and now seem to suffer from…especially with my loving wife.
Very often we get upset with ourselves and others when a promise is broken. We also seem to hold on to broken promises to bring up in the future when we are angry, sad, or just being ornery. We learn from broken promises that we should never make a promise we can’t keep. But we seem to go ahead and promise anyway…without regard to those who may remember, be hurt, or be offended. We don’t learn from our mistakes…at least not very well. Indeed we make many promises we can’t keep…and some that we never intend to keep.
Imagine, if you will, the number of promises that people make to God. I cannot tell you how heart wrenching it is to see a person down on their knees begging God for help; promising God to be a better person, to go to Church more often if even at all, work harder, lose weight, quit drinking or smoking. All too many of these people make promises they never intended to keep. How sad it is that people know who God is and where to find Him when they are in need…and how quickly they forget what God has done for them when things are better. We certainly wouldn’t be taken advantage like that more than once.
Yet God, regardless of what we do, makes promises to us…promises that He keeps. “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.” (Jeremiah 33:14) God kept that promise and all promises he ever made. He gave Elizabeth a son, Simeon saw his Lord before he died, the Israelites were brought out of slavery and eventually were given the Promised Land; God blessed Abraham and gave him many sons.
The prophets knew that God always kept His promises and would end their prayers to God “as you promised.” The prophets did this not because they doubted the Lord would remember but for comfort and assurance. These words show the prophets faith in that they believed and relied on God’s promises. The believed that God would do all that He promised.
When was the last time we had enough snow to shut everything down? The kind of snow that causes trees to fall and the power to fail? I'm sure some of you remember when it could take days and sometimes weeks to restore power. Leonard and Fred...i'm sure you remember those long and hard days of working to restore that power. No doubt many have called the power company asking how long it will be until their power is restored. I’m not sure if ComEd makes accurate estimates or not…but we hold them to the time they tell us. We often wonder why we haven’t gotten our power back when others have. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to be one of the power workers climbing poles, re-wiring communities, and staying up all night working in freezing weather.
What happens when people don’t get their power back when it was promised? Surely many people will call them complaining, yelling, and cursing in disgust. We expect them to do all that they promised. Yet on the other hand, we sinful people, doubt God’s promises to us. We treat God even worse then people that are unable to fulfill every promise. How do we go on to treat God when we don’t get what we want? When we don’t get things that God never promised us? How often do we instead ignore all the blessings God has given us; especially the wonderful gifts he has promised and fulfilled?
Maybe you have asked or know someone that asks: “what has God ever promised to me…and kept…that is so good?” “In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness.” (Jeremiah 33:15-16) God promised the Israelites and all sinners throughout the world; each of us, a Savior which is Christ the Lord.
St. Paul reminds the earliest Christians and all believers of God’s fulfilled promises in Acts 13:16-23: “Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: "Men of Israel and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me! The God of the people of Israel chose our fathers; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt, with mighty power he led them out of that country, he endured their conduct for about forty years in the desert, he overthrew seven nations in Canaan and gave their land to his people as their inheritance. All this took about 450 years. After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: 'I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do. From this man's descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised.”
We are assured that God keeps His promises in the birth of Jesus. We are assured of God’s promises in Jesus’ death on the cross. We are assured of God’s promises and love for us in Jesus’ resurrection. God has promised us a Savior and has kept his promises to us.
As you go on to celebrate with friends and loved ones remember that Jesus is the only reason for the season. Share the love of God with all those around you; share the wonderful news that God has indeed kept his promise to us. There is no Christmas without Christ. Jesus was born in order to die for you that you may live with him. God bless each of you this Advent season as we look forward in joyous celebration to the birth of Jesus; the birth of the King; the birth of our Savior. God’s promise fulfilled. Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.