Recently, the relationship between “promise” and “faith” hit me in a new way while reading a scene in the Lord of the Rings series. The scene is between Faramir and Frodo (in the secret caves of Henneth Annun close to the land of Mordor). Frodo has just vouched for Gollum, and Faramir has refused the ring and grants Frodo and Sam safe passage through the land on their way to Mordor. Faramir learns that Gollum is leading Sam and Frodo to a dangerous place called Cirith Ungol and counsels them to not go there. But Frodo responds, “‘I have promised many times to take [Gollum] under my protection and to go where he led. You would not ask me to break faith with him?’ ‘No,’ says Faramir. ‘But my heart would. For it seems less evil to counsel another man to break troth than to do so oneself.’”
Faith. Promises. Something clicked for me connecting the two. The reason we have faith is because God makes us promises. And it goes the other way, too: because of the promises God makes, we attain faith. Frodo does not break faith with Gollum because of his promise. Just as God does not break faith with us by failing to follow through on His promises.
And look at what God has promised us in the scripture readings for today. In Isaiah, we are promised relief from anguish! “There will be no gloom for her who was in anguish,” writes the prophet Isaiah. Even when we are in the land of sacrifice and struggle (possible translations of Zebulun and Naphtali), we are promised a Prince of Peace who will establish righteousness and justice and be the wonderful counselor:
“Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore” continues Isaiah.
In the Psalms we have delightful pictures of victory and celebration.
“God has anointed you with the oil of gladness; …From ivory palaces
stringed instruments make you glad…In place of your fathers shall be
your sons; you will make them princes in all the earth…I will cause
your name to be remembered in all generations” writes a Psalmist in
Even in Luke we have a situation where Jesus has said that Peter will
deny his lord three times, and behold, Peter breaks faith with Jesus
before the rooster crows. But that’s not the end. In 2 Peter 1, we
see Peter writing emphatically “of very great and precious promises”
God has made us. He writes, “We did not follow cleverly invented
stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus
Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor
and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the
Majestic Glory…We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven
when we were with him on the sacred mountain. And we have the word of
the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention
to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and
the morning star rises in your hearts.” And so while Peter broke faith,
God did not. God marked Peter as His own and used him. Promises. Faith. We need promises to have faith. We need faith to trust in God’s promises.
And Christmas is the day to celebrate His promises. On Christmas, God
follows through on his greatest promise to us, His Son, the Wonderful
counselor promised in Isaiah 9. It is at Christmas that we see a bit of the
glory and the majesty of the celebrations talked about in Psalms 45,
47,and 48. The church rolls out the red carpet and clothes itself in
colorful robes and anoints all who come within its doors with the oil
of gladness and goodwill. It is but a glimpse of the glory and the
majesty that God has for us in His holy city. Peace, love, goodwill
towards men–those mantras of the holiday season– are promises found in
the Bible; while commercialized and monetized in our current culture,
they are tied to holy truth nonetheless. Even the decorations, the wreaths, the evergreens, and the magic of “Santa Claus” tangible in the air point to greater feasting, greater joys, and greater celebrations promised for those who love and believe in Christ. And though we break faith like Peter, God’s promises hold. The repentant are welcomed with the promise of forgiveness and a place in the festivities.
So today meditate on what God has promised you in the deep recesses of
your heart. What light is God shining in the dark for the you? What
anguish or struggle does He wish to release you from? With what joy
does he want to anoint you? Meditate on what He has promised His
church and the world. And pray for peace between warring nations,
comfort and counsel for those in the midst of doubt or sorrow or
trouble, and the hope of a city with Christ as King. Jesus promises
to bring us out of darkness and into marvelous light. He promises an
inheritance with Him as a son or daughter of God! Cling to these
promises of God this holiday season. And celebrate them!
May God remind you how He does not break faith on His promises this
Christmas. May He fill your heart with the glory of a Hallelujah
chorus, the peace of a right ruler, the beauty of evergreens
decorating the mantelpiece, the joy of a child being born, and the
strength and humility of Jesus to die for the sins of the world. Amen.