Luke 1:39-55

all heard or even made promises that never came to fruition. For
example, we’ve listened to the sales person at the hardware store
tells us that the car battery we are about to purchase will last ten
years, only to have it die in ten months. Perhaps we’ve told our
children that we’ll attend their important school functions only to
have “emergencies” come up at the last minute. Promises are made.
Promises are broken. And through this repetition of life’s
disappointments, society has become increasingly dubious of promises.

often mentions the promises of God. How should we respond to them? On
this Christmas Eve Sunday, let’s consider a direct promise that God
made years ago to a young woman named Mary in the town of Nazareth.
Please turn in your Bibles to Luke 1:39-55.

for background, in the preceding text, Gabriel, an angel of the Lord,
visits Mary. He tells her that she will soon conceive a child through
an act of the Holy Spirit. This child born from her own flesh would
be called Jesus, Son of the Most High, and Savior of the world.
Rather than responding with disbelief, Mary firmly trusts the angel’s
promise with a simple faith and says: “I am the Lord’s servant. May
it be to me as you have said.”

After hearing
the news, Mary visits her relatives Zechariah and Elizabeth. The angel
had told Mary that Elizabeth would also be carrying a child despite
her old age. As we all remember, Elizabeth would eventually give
birth to John the Baptist who later prepared the way of Jesus’
coming. When Mary greeted Elizabeth at her home, John leaped in her
womb. Baby John was excited to come near his relative Jesus. And with
great joy and exhilaration, Elizabeth filled with the Holy Spirit
blessed Mary for trusting in what the Lord would accomplish through
her. Later on, Mary gave praise to the Lord through song and
glorified Him!

Doesn’t this passage bear a
striking resemblance to an Old Testament story yet with a completely
different human response? In Genesis 18, three angels visit Abraham
and Sarah. These angels bring news that Sarah will conceive despite the
fact that she has elapsed the normal age of childbearing. Do you
recall Sarah’s response to God’s promise? Exhibiting her skepticism,
she laughs to herself. She did not have faith that the Lord could use
her in this way.

We are often presented with
opportunities in life to trust and belief in God’s promises. However,
due to our past experiences, many of us have found it easier to doubt
God’s promises rather than trust them. Over the years, I have found
myself trusting in human knowledge or wisdom instead of believing in
God’s supernatural abilities. There are times that I have been
disappointed with God because I have placed my human expectations on
a pedestal rather than seeking the Lord’s will for my life.

Mary’s response to God’s promise in Luke 1:39-55 offers us a dynamic,
optimistic perspective. Mary understood that humanly speaking the
Lord’s promise was unattainable. However, in faith, Mary trusted the
angel Gabriel when he said in verse 37: “For nothing is impossible
with God.” As a result, she received God’s blessing! This blessing
may not have been earthly, taking monetary or physical form, but
rather one that reflected the glory of God as she placed complete
confidence in His Word and in His abilities. For blessed are those
who trust in God’s promises. God is glorified when we put our trust
in Him.

Adoniram Judson, the great missionary
to Burma, once said: “The future is as bright as the promises of
God.” Are we struggling to believe in God’s promises? Have we been
hurt by unanswered prayers or expectations? This advent season I
would encourage all of us to remember God’s promise to Mary and her
response to it. Our future is as bright as the promises of God
especially when we have enough courage to place our trust in them. And
when we do, God is glorified and we can take immense pleasure in
that. For blessed are those who trust in God’s promises.

brief provided by: Matthew D. Kim, adjunct professor of preaching at
Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, MA.

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