As the secular world turns its gaze almost exlusively toward Christmas, the church begins the season of Advent, a time to prepare ourselves to hear once more the message of the angels, to go to Bethlehem and see the Son of God lying in a manger.
This Advent, we will be exploring the story of salvation beginning with the promises made to our spiritual ancestors. The story of salvation has its roots in the creation story, but the covenant that God establishes with Abraham marks the beginning of a historical narrative that leads ultimately to the birth of Jesus. God promises that Abraham will be the father of many nations and that through Abraham God will bless all the peoples of the earth. Specifically, it is through the offspring of Abraham that God's promise will ultimately be fulfilled. This promise was the foundation for the history of the people of Israel. In the New Testament, we find Paul reflecting on this promise made to Abraham. For Paul, the offspring of Abraham is none other that Jesus himself (Galatians 3:16).
The promise made to Abraham and ultimately fulfilled in Christ was the source of great hope for God's people. A promise has the power to produce hope only when it is trustworthy and true. God's promises produce hope in the hearts of his people precisely because God is faithful, trustworthy, and true to his Word. In the New Testament, Jesus is called "our Hope" because he is the fulfillment of God's promise.
Finally, a promise implies waiting; a promise brings about encouragement and hope in the present as well as expectations for the future. God's people learned much about themselves and the nature of God through seasons of expectant waiting. Many of the well known biblical characters experienced the tension of spiritual waiting - the tension between promise and fulfillment. During seasons of spiritual waiting, God's people have, at times, rebelled and sought to "fulfill" the promise according to their own plans, but God, according to his faithfulness, continues to offer grace and forgiveness to his people. God never breaks his promise!
As we enter the season of Advent, may it be a time of reflection as we look back at the story of our salvation, as we contemplate the neverfailing promises of God. May this Advent also be a time of hope as we expectantly await the coming of our Savior.