The Old Testament is a story of frustrated hope. Humans sinned, and were kicked out of paradise. But along with the word of judgment came a word of promise — God said that one of Eve’s descendants would crush the enemy (Genesis 3:15). A deliverer would come to rescue the people.
Eve probably hoped that her first child would be the solution. But Cain was part of the problem. There was a partial salvation in the time of Noah, but sin continued. Some important promises were given to Abraham. But he died before he received all the promises.
The promise was given to Isaac, and then Jacob. Jacob and his family went into Egypt and became a great nation, but they were enslaved. Yet, God remained true to his promise and brought them out with miracles.
But that did not fix their problems. They kept on sinning. The people failed time and again, and God let Israel and the Jews be taken into captivity. The people were right back where Abraham had started from, in Mesopotamia. Where was the promise? The promise was in God, who cannot lie. He would fulfill his promise no matter how badly the people failed.
God let the Jews stay in Babylon for years, and after that some of them returned to Jerusalem, and the Jewish nation became a shadow of its former self. They got a taste of freedom, then a taste of being ruled by Rome. They weren’t any better off in the Promised Land than they had been in Egypt or Babylon.
Under Roman rule, everyone longed for God to do something. God started in the smallest possible way — as an embryo in a virgin. God began fulfilling his promise with a child conceived out of wedlock. God began fulfilling the hopes of his people in a way that they did not recognize. No one would have guessed that the “illegitimate” baby was the answer to the nation’s hopes.
Angels told shepherds that a Savior had been born (Luke 2:11). He was a Savior, but he wasn’t saving anyone right then. He even needed to be saved himself. The family had to flee to save the baby from Herod, the king of the Jews.
But God called that helpless baby a Savior. He knew what that baby would do. In that baby were all the hopes of Israel. Here was the light to the Gentiles; here was the blessing for all nations; here was the child of Eve who would crush the enemy of all humanity. But he was just a baby, born in a stable, his life in danger. But in his birth, everything changed.
God had come to us, because he is faithful to his promises. God does not do things the way we think, but in the way he knows will work. God thinks in terms of tiny beginnings, of spiritual rather than physical strength, of victory in weakness rather than power.
When God gave us Jesus, he fulfilled his promises and brought about everything he had said.
We do not yet see every promise fulfilled. We do not yet see everyone knowing God. We do not yet see the end of crying and tears and death and dying. We still eagerly desire the final answer — but in Jesus, we have hope and assurance of better things to come.
The angels sang when Jesus was born. The angels knew that victory was certain, because God had told them so. Jesus tells us that the angels rejoice whenever a sinner repents. They are singing for every person who comes to faith in Christ, because a baby has been born.
Just as there is hope in the baby Jesus, there is hope in the baby Christian. No matter how long you have been a Christian, there is hope for you, because God has invested in you, and he will not abandon the work he has begun. Jesus is evidence that God always keeps his promises.
Kathy Houston of White Hall is pastor of Christian Fellowship Center of Grace Communion International Pine Bluff.
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