Last week I published a post entitled ‘Losing My Religion.’ I was overwhelmed by the response. It came in comments on the post, by email, on Facebook and on Twitter. Many folk, it seems, have or have had such thoughts, and those few words of confession resonated with them.
Today I am writing from a hotel room in Denmark approximately 650 miles from home and I have to make another confession: Foreign travel no longer excites me. To be honest I’d be more than happy if I never had to set foot on another aeroplane. The only reason I travel is because of work. There are bills to pay, and the retirement I was expecting to ease into by next June has drifted far out of sight. Human plans always seem to get frustrated. Who’d have thought that the pension schemes I have paid into for so many years ago would fail to live up to their promises?
I have learnt that human promises often mean very little. Obviously there are people I trust just as there are people I don’t trust. There are also people I have to trust – airline pilots for instance! The promises my wife and I made to each other on our wedding day have stood the test of almost thirty-eight years, but they are nothing compared with the promises that God has made to those He created. The rainbow is the most obvious example of a God promise. Don’t we all (in the words of the old hymn) ‘trace the rainbow through the rain?’
So today I am overwhelmed by the promises of God – the God who knew me before I was formed in my mother’s womb, the God who knows my heart. During times of self-doubt the knowledge that God not only loves me, but also knows me is important. As Christmas draws near it astonishes me that a world that is largely underwhelmed by the thought of God celebrates the birth of His Son without realising it, or beginning to understand the love that exploded onto our planet the moment Jesus was born.
But without Jesus, without the love of God for all of humanity, then the season would not exist, and the Christmas lights would be extinguished, leaving the world forever in the darkness it deserves. And that is how it would surely be if God gave us what we deserved, instead of giving us Jesus. So whether you are underwhelmed or overwhelmed by God’s gift I am clinging to the love that will not let me go, and the promise that was not made in vain.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7 NIV)