Thursday, December 30, 2021

Promise Kept, Promise Trusted In

Sermon for Christmas Day, the Nativity of Our Lord, preached on December 25, 2021, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (Jn 1:14)
    Promises have a unique social currency in our world.  We barter and trade with them.  We give people our word and take people at their word.  We make promises all the time. …But we also break promises all the time.  We say we’re going to do something, and then we don’t.  We do this so often, and have this done to us so often, that we don’t think much about it anymore.  We’ve gotten used to broken promises.  We’ve even come to expect broken promises.  Broken promises just don’t seem to be a big deal for us anymore.  But they are a big deal.  They’re a big deal because it’s not just the promise that gets broken…it’s trust.
    We’ve all seen and experienced the distrust and effects of broken promises.  Just last Sunday, Pastor Peters referenced the unbelievable and staggering statistics surrounding the current make-up of our American homes, homes that have been broken because of broken promises.  Divorce is now the norm while husbands and wives remaining faithful to their marriage vows is the exception.  Divorce breeds distrust.  Men and women stop trusting each other.  Children stop trusting adults.  And everyone starts to distrust all established institutions, because the family is the foundation of those institutions.  If we can’t trust our family, if we can’t take them at their word, then who can we trust?  Whose promises are certain and sure? 
    Promises go all the way back to the Garden; to that 6th day of Creation.  When God made man, forming our first father from the dust of the ground, breathing the breath of life into his nostrils, God promised to care for him, to give him everything he needed for life.  He graciously gave to Adam and Eve every tree of the Garden.  They could eat the fruit from every single one, except the one in the middle, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  And Adam and Eve responded to that promised care with a promise of their own.  They promised to obey the Lord.  They promised not to eat of that tree…but they broke that promise.  God gave them His Word, but they distrusted it.  Instead of listening to the One who gave them life, they listened to the serpents' lies and temptation.  They broke their promise and they ate.  They broke their promise and sinned.  And ever since then, that promise of obedience has been broken by us sinners.
    Over and over and over again we sinners have promised to obey God, and over and over and over again, we’ve broken that promise.  We see this throughout the whole history of the Old Testament.  The people of Israel promised to obey the Lord.  During the Exodus, after the Lord had given those good 10 Commandments, they all responded saying they would do it.  They promised to obey.  They gave their word that they’d be faithful.  But very quickly they broke that promise.  They  grumbled against the Lord.  They didn’t trust His Word to bring them safely into the promised land.  And after they did enter the promised land, they soon followed the pagan ways of the Cannanites that the Lord drove from that land. 
    We do the very same thing those Israelites did.  We promise to obey the Lord.  We give Him our word that we’ll be faithful and obey.  In the rite of Individual Confession and Absolution, we end our confession of  sin by saying, “I’m sorry for all this and ask for grace.  I want to do better.”  And similarly, in the words of Corporate Confession that we speak at every Divine Service we say, “Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways to the glory of Your holy name.”  These statements are promises.  We say we want to do better, we say we want to walk in God’s way, but then we don’t.  All of us know our pet sins that we commit over and over.  All of us can remember a time when we’ve stopped and said to ourselves, “You know, I really shouldn’t do this.  It goes against God’s Word.  But…I want to, so I'm going to do it anyways.” 
    When people break promises, when we break our promises, it’s the natural consequence to stop trusting, and it’s a natural consequence of that distrust to write people off.  If someone breaks their promises to you enough times, at some point you’re going to stop listening to them.  You’re going to ignore them.  This would be perfectly understandable for God to do to us.  He would have every right to ignore us.  He would be justified in turning His back on us, letting us suffer the everlasting death consequence that our sin deserves.  But He doesn’t do that, because of the other promise God made in the Garden. 
    After Adam and Eve broke their promise, after Satan led them into temptation, the Lord cursed him.  And in that curse was God’s promise of salvation, the first proclamation of the Gospel.  He promised us that the devil, sin, and death would be defeated.  “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers;  He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel.” (Gen 3:15-NIV)  This promise He spoke over and over again.  He spoke this promise to Abraham, promising to bless all nations through Him.  He spoke it to Moses and the people of Israel saying He would send a prophet like Moses.  He spoke it to David, promising to establish his throne forever.  He spoke it through the prophets; like Isaiah and Jeremiah and Zechariah and Micah.  And He spoke it through John the Baptist, who was blessed to physically point to Jesus, that promise fulfilled.
    At the right time, God fulfilled His promise.  He kept His Word.  That Word became flesh and dwelled among us.  Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin, is that offspring of the woman that God promised in the Garden.   He’s the One who crushed Satan’s head with His sacrificial death on the cross.  He’s the One who enlightens us, who overcomes the darkness of sin and death.  He’s the One who saves us from our sin and broken promises.  That’s why we’re all here this morning, to worship Him who is the fulfillment of that promise God spoke long ago. 
    We’re here to receive the gifts He gives.  Through His Word proclaimed and His Holy Supper, we receive the forgiveness His death won.  Through His Word proclaimed and His Holy Supper, we receive the life His resurrection won.  And through His Word proclaimed and His Holy Supper, we continue to hear about His salvation promised to us, and we’re sustained in that promise, always trusting in it.
    Because God kept His promise, sending His Son on Christmas Day, sending Him to save us from Satan, sin, and death, we know He’ll keep His promise to us about our eternal life in Him.  No matter what happens in our lives, no matter what we see going on around us, no matter how we feel, no matter how long we have to wait, we know with faith that our Lord will come again, delivering to us that salvation He promised.  There’s no doubt about it, because God’s Word is certain and sure.  Christ proves that. 
    God kept His promise from the beginning.  Over and over again, from the Garden onward, He promised to send the Savior who would crush Satan’s head.  He was going to save us from our sin and death.  That promise has been fulfilled in Christ.  The Son of God has rescued you from sin, death, and the devil.  And since that promise is fulfilled, you can trust He’ll keep all His promises to you: His promise of everlasting life.  In Jesus’ name…Amen.

No comments: