Preposterous Promise

The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, God’s Son, happened just as it was written about in the prophecy of Isaiah:

Look, I am sending my messenger before you.

He will prepare your way,

a voice shouting in the wilderness:

” Prepare the way for the Lord;

make his paths straight.”

John’s preaching

John was in the wilderness calling for people to be baptized to show that they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins. Everyone in Judea and all the people of Jerusalem went out to the Jordan River and were being baptized by John as they confessed their sins. John wore clothes made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey. He announced, “One stronger than I am is coming after me. I’m not even worthy to bend over and loosen the strap of his sandals. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” ~Mark 1:1-8 (CEB)

“’If it sounds too good to be true, it is.’” We have all heard this with the warning about scam artists that are waiting to take our money and our property. And it is true that there are those who prey on the naïve, the trusting, and the innocent. Most of us can remember hearing about that seductive bargain that turned out to be a disaster. We have seen it happen and have promised ourselves it will never happen to us.

Because we see such deception in our world, it is not unusual that we guard ourselves against the truth of the gospel story. We are afraid that it is indeed too good to be true. What if we believed and then found out it was only myth and hype? Better to keep our distance. We listen to the gospel story, let it creep into the edges of our lives, but never can bring ourselves to embrace it fully. What if it is just another cheap commercial trick that has nothing to do with our need or destiny and everything to do with the storyteller’s need and fortune? Since it is better to be wise than to be a fool, we stand near the edge of the Advent story and keep all of our options open.

So often I stand on the edge of the light, afraid to believe, afraid to act, afraid that this story is too good to be true. But then in my better moments, when I listen closely to the story, move closer to the light, my fears seem to evaporate like an early morning mist, and I can believe again. I can believe that God who made all that is became clothed in our human flesh so that we might become clothed in God. I can believe that God claims me as a beloved child. I can believe that all my days are in God’s strong and tender hands. I can believe that life is good, beautiful, and eternal. I can believe that not only my days but all days are in God’s good and able hands. I can believe, rejoice, and wait trustingly and expectantly for the unfolding of God’s promise given so many ways and most clearly in the Advent story. Thanks be to God!

We are not unlike Zechariah in the presence of God’s messengers. Our questions are like his. How can this be? The angel speaks to us as to him, ‘Do not be afraid . . . for your prayer has been heard’ (Luke 1:13). God gives the promise and God keeps the promise. So even though it does sound too good to be true, it is true! Thanks be to God it is true! Two thousand years of Christian experience and testimony declare that the preposterous promise is try. Today believe that your prayer is heard and the light and presence of God will lead you through all your days.” ~Rueben P. Job

Almighty God, who came to us long ago in the birth of Jesus Christ, be born in us anew today by the power of your Holy Spirit. We offer our lives as home to you and ask for grace and strength to live as your faithful, joyful children always. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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