“Sovereign Lord, as You have promised . . . My eyes have seen your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32, sel.)
The words we most commonly associate with Christmas are “peace,” “love,” and “joy,” and rightly so. These are fruits of Christ’s birth as well as the evidence of His presence in our lives (see Galatians 5:22-23). The angel proclaimed “peace on earth” (Luke 2:14). Jesus is the flesh-and-bone expression of God’s love (John 3:16). And the angel’s announcement to the shepherds was “news of great joy” (Luke 2:10). But there is another word that I think fits the Christmas season best: “promise.”
In our western, largely Protestant culture, we see Jesus’ birth differently than the Bible reveals it, partly because we focus only on the text in Luke as the foundation of the Christmas story. But to truly understand Christmas, we need to go back – way back – all the way to Genesis, to a garden and a tree and the first humans. You know the account – God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden and blessed them with perfection. Until a serpent and a piece of fruit caused the first sin, an act that forever changed human history. With their act of rebellion, all of God’s creation was cursed with death. The man and woman were banished from the Garden and from God’s intimate presence. But not without God’s promise of redemption. He said to the serpent who tempted them into sin, “I will put enmity between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15). In this statement God made a promise to save His creation from the wages of sin. He fulfilled that promise with the birth of Jesus. Salvation came in the form of an infant.
My dear friend, God is the perfect Promise-keeper. Paul said that “All God’s promises are ‘Yes’ in Christ Jesus” (2 Corinthians 1:20). His promises of peace and comfort, hope and joy, and power and presence are all met in Jesus Christ – because He is the fulfillment of the very first promise at the very first Christmas.