I will keep my promise

Published 4:41 pm Wednesday, December 5, 2018

by Charles Qualls

A beautiful and powerful God created, once upon a time. Fact is, God created all of time. That Creation itself was a beautiful thing, both the act and the result.

When humanity has lived within Creation as God intended, it is a thing of beauty. But humanity can get distracted so easily. So, we have not always lived as God intended. Actually, that is a gross understatement. When we have not, it has not been a beautiful thing at all.

The season of Advent began this week. We now make our journey together toward the manger and the miraculous birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

There is so much more at stake here than the fun, colorful and creative decorations, although they thrill my soul.

There is more to this season than parties and familiar carols, though I love every one of those.

There is more to this than the warm memories of Christmases past, and the traditions that drive the rhythm of the season, though I hold those dear myself.

I have a dream that we’ll all take seriously this season of anticipation by attending the churches of our choice and worshipping. I dream that we will all connect with the ancient story anew.

Maybe we will discover a sense of holy calling within ourselves to bring the kingdom of God a little closer.     

A distracted humanity has always come and gone from its relationship with the Creator. That much is the essence of the Biblical story. The story of Christ coming into a needful world is our beckoning each Advent. 

There’s where Jeremiah’s haunting voice of hope begins in chapter 33: 14-16: “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.”

When we consider what the promise was, it’s not so different from what we could use a good dose of today. 

God promised a Redeemer, a Messiah. One would come from David and would bring righteousness. One who would come into the world wielding not a sword, but love’s grace. One who would live among us to show us how we should be living with each other. One who would champion the causes of those who needed an advocate for justice and hope. 

It is hard for us to sit in the relative comfort of distance and time, inside our great worship spaces, and understand where Jeremiah’s prophecy truly comes from. 

Yet, we read these words and we glaze over with warm feelings, because all Christians in the 21st century can seem to hear is “Jesus” as we read them. That’s fine, and on some level we should of course.

On balance, the book of Jeremiah’s prophecy is tough reading. His anguish is clear, and much of the news he has to deliver to Judah is not good.

They have strayed from God, and made life tougher than it already might have been. Jeremiah is disturbed unto despair.

This is the grade of lament that Jeremiah brings us. And probably why you haven’t read it much devotionally. He is struggling under the weight of what he sees out his window, as God calls upon him to speak truth. But, the exiled people of Judah just don’t want to hear.    

You know why I show up for work each day? Because I have an abiding belief that there are some who do want to hear. 

It’s a tale as old as time, our need for God’s redemption. But each Advent, we have a chance to write a fresh and happy chapter.

Advent is upon us and Christmas is coming, because God has kept a promise. 

Each year, our hearts can somehow grow a size larger, and some just may grow three sizes larger. For in this season, if we allow ourselves to pay attention, we see encouraging acts of humanity like at almost no other time. Generous, considerate and even sacrificial acts that speak of the spirit of God alive among us! 

Each year, God speaks into our own personal and current exile.  Reminding us, if we are paying attention, that we have not been forgotten and are far from as alone as life can make us feel. 

Each year, God nudges us to get in on the giving, to get in on the doing, to get in on the gatherings and to get in on the act of making other people’s lives a little better somehow.

Into the midst of all that, slips redemption’s story and the hopeful good news of Christmas.

DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.