What do we celebrate when we celebrate Christmas? Many people in our culture might say that Christmas is a celebration of winter or getting presents or having a few days off. They might celebrate the tradition itself, that happy feeling of waking up to surprises under the tree, like a celebration of nostalgia and sweet memories.
In the church, we know that Christmas is really a celebration of Jesus’ birth. So, we set up our nativity fig-ures and rehearse the ancient story in word and song. We know the real reason for the season, and we enjoy the many traditions that surround this time of year.
Along with the story of Jesus’ birth, along with angels, shepherds and the star over Bethlehem, I wonder if what we celebrate might also be a larger truth about God and His faithfulness. What if our celebration of Christmas focused the comforting assurance that God keeps His promises?
When the angel appeared to Mary with news of her surprising role in the Savior’s birth, he declared, “For no word from God will ever fail” (Luke 1:37). God had promised long ago to send a Savior. He promised to redeem His people from their sin. He promised to give us eternal life. He promised to send light into darkness that would lead people of faith into His glorious presence. And God also promised that a virgin would give birth to a child who would be called “the Son of the Most High” and whose “kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:32-33).
Those were big promises, the biggest and most important ever made. To some they may have sounded like wishful thinking or impossible dreams. Can sins really be washed away? Would God really send His own Son into this dark, cold world? Does God really love people that much? Mary wondered, “How will this be… since I am a virgin?”
“No word from God will ever fail.” God tells the truth and always keeps His promises. Even the impossi-ble ones. Even the ones we can’t believe until they come true.
During Advent, we sing of promises made and promises kept:
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel! (Hymn 120)
Come, you people of the promise, sing for joy! The time is near!
God, the covenant fulfilling, soon among us will appear! (Hymn 130)
Come, thou long-expected Jesus, born to set thy people free (Hymn 135)
Hope of the ages, foretold by sages, comes to dispel all fears (Hymn 166)
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;
O come, let us adore Him! (Hymn 147)
Jesus is the Word, the promise of God, made real among us, because “no word from God will ever fail.” We celebrate God’s promise fulfilled at Christmas.
We also celebrate the assurance that God still makes and fulfills promises. Just as people long ago looked forward to the Savior’s birth, now we look forward to His return and to the final, ultimate fulfillment of God’s plan for this world. One day, Jesus will come back and take us to be with Him forever in the new heaven and new earth. We cling to that promise with unwavering faith through the trials and sorrows of this life. What waits for us in heaven will be better in every way than what we endure today. “No word from God will ever fail.”
So, rejoice this Christmas in Jesus’ birth and the fulfillment of the promise of Emmanuel. Rejoice in the assurance that God will keep all His promises, even into eternity.