How many times have you heard something like that from someone you loved? Especially this time of year? Maybe the conversations went like this…
“Aww, you promised! You said we could go shopping together this afternoon to get a present!”
“Is it really that important, dear?”
“Yes it is!”
“But we don’t have the money.”
“Can we at least go window shopping?”
“No, we don’t have the gas.”
“Well, we can walk.”
“Honey, I don’t have the time today.”
“Aww, but you promised!”
“Aww, you promised! I really wanted that toy. I was a good boy ALL year.”
“I know, but there’s no time to go today to buy it.”
“How about tomorrow?”
“But we don’t have the money for that kind of toy.”
“I have some money in my piggy bank. That will help!”
“That won’t be nearly enough. I’m sorry, but the answer is no.”
“Aww, but you promised!”
But it’s not just we adults saying things like that to our children. Sometimes we hear those words from our own lips. We really want to do something, to buy something, to be with someone. But, try as we might, somehow for some reason it just can’t be done. Aww, you promised!
Maybe it is a lack of money. Maybe it is a lack of time. Sometimes, it is more like a lack of connections to the right people (it’s not always what you know, it’s who you know), or maybe it’s the power and clout that is lacking. Or maybe circumstances beyond our control took the person or thing from our reach. Then, as we get older, sometimes the reasons are more like a lack of time because we’re too busy, or maybe just a lack of energy (and the abundance of frustration!).
“Aww, you promised!” is something we tell other adults, or even ourselves. This was the year we were hoping to see so-and-so. The economy is just starting to recover, and we were just starting to get ahead. We licked the cancer; but ultimately cancer licked our wallet; and this will be a meager holiday. Jake thought Sadie promised to meet him at the mall, and now he saw her walking with Bill. Broken hearts, broken promises, broken dreams. Aww, you promised!
But broken promises are why we celebrate Advent and Christmas. Promises made in the Garden of Eden, promises made to love and obey God — broken by Adam and Eve. Promises you yourself have made to God to love and obey Him — broken time and again. Broken promises in our wrongful actions, in our lack of love for those around us, and in our relationship with God. Aww, you promised!
Sometimes, we try to make excuses. Maybe following ALL of those Ten Commandments isn’t so important, we try to tell ourselves. We try to justify our lifestyle, saying, maybe we’re just sinners and can’t help the way we are. But the Lord God looks at these excuses and realizes, Hey! When all the excuses are over, the answer is still no … no relationship with Him, no eternal life, no heaven. Broken promises are why we celebrate Advent and Christmas. Our broken promises.
But we are also here because of promises which the Lord God has made. And kept. Yes, Adam and Eve sinned; and because they sinned YOU and I have that Original Sin clinging to us from the moment of conception (Psalm 51:5) until the day we die. Yes, because we are sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, we act like our parents. We make promises to God and we don’t obey perfectly. And God refuses to take the lame excuses people come up with. In fact, God refuses to take anything less than perfection. He is holy, and He hates sin.
We celebrate Advent and Christmas – we sing the beautiful hymns and carols of the season – because of God’s Promises. Beginning with the earliest history, just moments after the Fall into sin, God began a promise of Salvation. It was not a salvation by what we do right or what we don’t do wrong. It was a promise that we would be saved by what He would do for us. God would become flesh and dwell among us.
This Promise is like a scarlet thread woven in the tan cloth of history. It enters at Genesis 3:15. It weaves through the history of the Bible, holding everything together. It shows brightly in Abraham, “Who believed in God, and faith was credited to him as righteousness.” It knits together King David and a harlot named Rahab, farmers like Judah, carpenters like Mary’s husband, exiles like Josiah, and executives like Boaz.
As we are reminded throughout the Old Testament, there are literally hundreds of direct prophecies which point to the Coming Salvation God promised to send. And thousands more verses which allude to the God-man who would be born of a Virgin, in humility, in Bethlehem. God’s salvation solution was the Man named Jesus Christ. Jesus came to live a perfect life (something you and I could never do). Then Jesus acted as our Substitute, dying on the Cross for all of our mistakes, wrongs, and evils.
When we make promises, we sometimes are not able to carry them out. God, who made heaven and earth, and all things both visible and invisible, can never be prevented from keeping a promise. God promised to send the Savior to us. Jesus came at Christmas. God also promises that Jesus will come again on the Final Day. As surely as He came once, He shall come again. God never breaks a promise.
God also promises to come today, to us, in Word and Sacraments. He comes with news of pardon and peace in Christ Jesus. When God promises that all your sins are forgiven because of that Baby in the manger, you can count on that promise. When God promises that nothing in all creation can separate you from His love in Christ Jesus (Romans 8), you can count on that promise. When God promises blessings of faith, hope, and love to all who read and believe His Word, that’s a promise you can depend on. When God promises you peace, joy, patience, gentleness, and self control as the Holy Spirit works faith in your heart by Word and Sacraments, that’s a promise you can be sure of.
Christmas is not a celebration of what we give others; it is a celebration of what God has given us … the Savior, Jesus Christ. Christmas is God’s answer to all of our broken hearts, broken promises, and broken dreams. Almighty God took on flesh as promised. The Promise of love and forgiveness lived among us, and was sacrificed once-for-all about three decades later on Calvary. By His death, He has destroyed death, and brought life and immortality to light thru the unbreakable promise of the Gospel.
That Promise is yours this Advent and Christmas. If your heart is full of sadness, remember Christ’s promises to comfort the hurting. If loneliness is your only companion, recall He promises “will never leave you or forsake you.” If sin is crushing your spirit, take it to the cross: He paid for it there. Then go in the joy of His salvation and live anew.
As we sing with gusto the hymns and carols of Adventide and Christmastide, ponder this in your heart: God never says, “Aww, you promised!” Instead, He promises us new lives in Christ Jesus. Yes, joy to the world, the Lord is come! He promised, and He delivered!
A blessed Adventide and Christmastide to one and all,