By David Hegg
Perhaps nothing demonstrates a person’s integrity more than their willingness to keep a promise. As the great Alaskan poet Robert Service once wrote, “A promise made is a debt unpaid.” Yet, today promises are thrown around like confetti, and seldom are they remembered, let alone kept. At the very core of our society’s desire to succeed should be a commitment to only make promises we can keep, and then a persevering determination to fulfill them.
To start with, it is clear we should only make promises we are able to keep. Every time we endure another political season we are reminded anew that most of those wooing our votes are experts at making promises they simply can’t keep. Their hope is that, by the time we figure it out, the election will be long over, and they’ll be firmly in office. A promise-keeper must not only make the right promises, but also have the power and perseverance necessary to fulfill them.
For me, the greatest promise ever made was voiced by God in the garden of Eden in Genesis 3:15: On the heels of Adam’s sin, He announced that one day a “He” would come along to fix the problems sin brought into the world. This promise forms the very backbone of the Bible, as God continued to give installments of the promise, each carrying more and more information as to its ultimate fulfillment. In Genesis 12 God narrowed it down to the Abraham, through whom a great nation would come. And out of this nation would come the One through whom all the nations of the world would be offered the blessing of renewed relationship with the Almighty.
In Isaiah the promise was further described in terms that must have seemed at the time to be impossible. The promised “He” would be born to a virgin, and would grow to be a king, sitting on David’s throne, forever and ever. And to top it off, his titles would include Almighty God and Prince of Peace. Certainly anyone reading that promise would have been skeptical, and yet as history moved forward, the impossible came to pass.
Micah the prophet declared that this “He” would actually be born outside Bethlehem, and even mentioned a well-known tower that had stood in the shepherds’ fields since the time of Jacob. It was in these fields that an industry grew up during the reign of Herod in Jerusalem. Those who ran the Temple Mount determined that only lambs raised in proximity to Jerusalem could be used for the great Passover feasts.
Thousands of these special lambs, raised by special Levitical shepherds, were born between mid-December and February. During this period, the shepherds stayed with their sheep around the clock to make sure these valuable lambs were expertly cared for at their birth.
Luke records that it was to these shepherds that the angel first appeared to declare that God had kept the promise. These shepherds, whose task it was to certify that Passover lambs were in fact spotless, and without blemish, were called to the very birthing place of Jesus. And there, lying in the manger, they found the “He” whom God had sent to be the Savior. And at that moment, the promise was fulfilled. God, the great promise-keeper, had brought the He into the world at the place where all the Passover lambs were born. And in that same place, some 33 years later, the Lamb of God – Jesus Christ – would willingly sacrifice his life that all who follow him in faith might escape judgment and find eternal life.
As you celebrate your Christmas, may your joy be full, may time with family and friends be comforting and exciting, and may you find time to remember the great God of Heaven whose promise was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus Christ the Lord. Merry Christmas!
David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and a Santa Clarita resident.“Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.