The word promise is all about the future. Derived from the Latin promissum, a promise declares a future excellence. It is form of foretelling—if we fulfill our promise, of course. God’s promises are sure, and the Advent season celebrates that with great joy.
The prophet offers these words:
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land (Jeremiah 33:14-15).
Biblical promises ground our lives. From the promises to Noah not to destroy the earth again by flood, to the promises to Abraham and Sarah to use them to bless all nations, to the promise to Moses that God would be with him, to the promise of Gabriel to Mary that the Holy Spirit would overshadow her, to the realization of the promised Messiah, the promises of God open up a future with hope.
We image the Triune God as we make promises that foster family and community health. Over the Thanksgiving holiday I had the privilege of participating in a family blessing of a newborn. Parents, siblings, cousins, aunt and uncle, and grandparents promised to receive the baby girl as a precious gift of God, to tell her the family stories, and surround her with love and wisdom, nurturing her faith.
It is only by the strength of God that humans can keep promises. Especially when the way grows hard, we are tempted to forsake the commitments we make to one another. Yet it is by faithful promise keeping that we grow to maturity as Christians. Just as God’s identity is revealed in the relational movement of the Triune God, so are we constituted by the promises we make and keep.
This past week a beloved friend died, and those who promised to keep vigil with him as he departed this world surrounded him. Accompanying him to gate of heaven, they entrusted his life to the care of God.
Advent is close at hand, and we celebrate anew God’s promise to extend salvation through the one who will accomplish justice for the sake of the world. Jesus does not come to judge, but to fulfill God’s wonderful plan to transform the horizons of sinful people. God’s justice is to make righteous those who are not; indeed, “The Lord is our righteousness” (v. 16).
As the light fades earlier each evening, we are reminded that the “sun of righteousness” which brings healing will soon be in our midst. We keep vigil in this season, remembering that God’s salvation secures our lives—now and eternally.
Molly T. Marshall
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