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A Christmas Promise for Everyone

December 14, 2020

Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16). “No word from God will ever fail” (Luke 1: 37)

The most important promise ever made and kept was made to King David during his reign in the 10th century B.C.:  “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever (2 Samuel 7:16).   It was the Davidic Covenant commonly understood throughout the ensuing centuries to be God’s promise to send a Messiah to his people through David’s lineage.  

Christmas is a celebration of the fulfillment of God’s promise to David and his greatest gift to mankind– the birth of the Messiah.[1]  Using Google Maps, we can “see” a bit into the future.   Our smart phones can estimate our arrival time at a given place with a high degree of certainty.  But when God made his promise to David, he could see all of the events and people over the centuries that would bring that promise to fruition.  God could see in one sweep the moment of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem and beyond.  God’s view is over the millennia, not over the course of a few hours.  Our view is limited in scope.  His is limitless.

The psalmist explains that God’s plan to send a Messiah through David’s line springs from his great love for David and for his people: “I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever . . . I will declare that your love stands firm forever . . . I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant, ‘I will establish your line forever and make your throne firm through all generations . . . I will maintain my love to him forever, and my covenant with him will never fail.  I will establish his line forever’” (Psalm 89: 1-4, 28-29).  His love for us is boundless and limitless, which is why he kept his promise. 

Jesus’ lineage to David can be traced through both Mary and Joseph.  Jesus’ biological link to David through Mary is found in the third chapter of Luke, while his legal claim to the throne through Joseph is documented in Matthew. Jewish genealogy was patriarchal, and for that reason neither of those accounts mention Mary.  But Mary’s father is believed to have been Heli, mentioned in the Luke genealogy (Luke 3: 23).  

The angel Gabriel told Mary that she would give birth to a son whom she should call Jesus.  He promised her that “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1: 32-33).  When Mary questioned how this would all take place, the angel told her that “No word from God will ever fail” (Luke 1: 37).   It would be the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant.  We know that God always keeps his promises, and that he will love us forever: “God’s love never fails” (Psalm 136: 1,2).  

Paul reminded the church in Rome that Jesus’ life and death was consistent with the prophecies of old: “The message I proclaim about Jesus Christ [is] in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings . . . so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith” (Romans 16: 25-26).   

For several years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, no one questioned the conventional wisdom that Jesus’ message was only for Jews; after all, he was the Jewish Messiah.  But that position was questioned after Peter baptized Cornelius and his family in Caesarea Maritima in 40 A.D.  A conflict arose between Jewish and Gentile Christians that continued throughout the first century.  

Cornelius was a Roman centurion stationed in Caesarea Maritima on the coast; he had received a vision to send his men to fetch Peter who was in Joppa, a part of present-day Tel Aviv, about 30 miles south of Caesarea Maritima.  Peter arrived in Caesarea a few days later with Cornelius’ men.  After witnessing the working of the Holy Spirit in Cornelius’ family, Peter baptized them.  He was then summoned to Jerusalem to explain to the other church leaders why he had baptized Gentiles. 

The conflict between Jewish and Gentile Christians persisted after that first Gentile baptism.  It was in that milieu that Paul preached to Gentiles.  A Jew who had studied under Gamaliel, the most learned rabbi of the first century, Paul became known as the “Apostle to the Gentiles,” because he evangelized all of Asia Minor and much of Europe.  He wrote his epistle to the church in Rome in 57 A.D. from Corinth long after Cornelius’ baptism, but because of the continuing conflicts, Paul repeated his message often that the gospel is for everyone. 

The Christmas message is indeed for all people.  Jesus is our bridge to God.  The curtain in the temple was torn in two when Jesus died, symbolizing our ability to approach God directly.  All are welcome to cross the bridge to God through faith.  We are ushered into his presence through faith.  We are surrounded by his warmth and love through faith.  We are guided and helped by the Spirit who inhabits us through faith.  

This Christmas, thank God for keeping his promise to send Jesus, his beloved Son, to us as his messenger of love in the form of a babe in a manger.  

Prayer:  God of Wonder, we praise and thank you for always keeping your promises—especially the promise to send a Messiah for all people.  We are awed by the wonder of Christ’s birth to a teenager; the wonder of Christ’s sacrifice for us on the cross; the wonder of his never-failing love and forgiveness of us.  We welcome you into each moment of our lives in the coming days and ask that you stay with us in the months and years to come.  Forgive us when we stray and lead us back onto the path that you have laid out for us as we look ahead.  Help us always to walk the bridge of faith to you so that we remain close to you.  We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture texts for the Fourth Sunday in Advent are 2 Samuel 7: 1-11, 16; Psalm 89: 1-5; Romans 16: 25-27; Luke 1: 26-38. 

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