A promise that is as old as the human race, one as new as the most recent born. A promise that is as distant as the words of Jeremiah, one that is as near as or most cherished thoughts. “The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise, I made. I will raise up for David a just shoot.” The promise of God, is a promise that is all about new life springing forth from existing life.
At the root of all the assurances made by God throughout the Old Testament lies a primal promise of descendants. In Hebrew Scriptures, descendants and offspring mean a new and ever continuing new life. And for the Jewish people of the Old Testament, a people who see their individual lives only within the context of the lives of their family and nation, this promise of offspring is a promise of life continuing beyond the shadow of their immediate lives. A promise that their own family will not be buried in the pages of history. A promise that their family will continue to live on, and more importantly, will continue on for all time with each succeeding generation.
But the Old Testament people have no monopoly on this promise. “May the Lord increase you and make you overflow with love for one another,” Paul writes to the Thessalonians— and to us as well. “May the Lord increase you and make you overflow with love for one another.” When all is said and done, isn’t this how we believe new life is born— the overflow of love for another? God forms this overflowing love into a new life, nursed carefully and attentively inside a woman’s womb. And though entrusted to the care of a woman, this new life, this shoot of David, is raised up from the seedlings of both man and woman.
But the Christian Testament reveals the depth of the promise which transcends the mere physical. The Christian Testament unfolds for us the truer meaning of the divine promise given to humanity many centuries ago. No longer is this promise relegated to the understanding of new life through descendants and offspring only, but now it takes on a fuller dimension which includes a promise of new life born in the hearts of all God’s chosen people. “And the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise, I made to the house of Israel.”
However, we are keen enough to know that this promise is not fulfilled so easily. No, there is much waiting, anticipating and longing–very often too much we think. The waiting and longing can at times become so unbearable that it turns into impatient desperation. Longing for this new life, is the very reason we were all created. Created we were to be in intimate communion with God, and there must be times in which this longing becomes almost painful. We hear the clock tick and tick, always hoping the chime of life will come in place of the next tock. Will the chime ever ring?
But the promise has been spoken! The promise of new life spoken at the beginning of time; spoken in our time; the words of a promise are spoken by a God who will not fail his Word.
Our presence sitting here today is proof itself that this promise spoken in every age has been fulfilled in times past does not ease the longing of the present. An emptiness endures until the promise is fulfilled in the story of our lives. The waiting doesn’t end until a shoot springs up from the soil of our souls. The emptiness endures until the promise is fulfilled within us, when a new life is formed within the wombs of our own hearts.
This Advent is the longing for a new life to be born;
The expectant waiting for a shoot to sprout;
The empty womb eager to bear life;
Eager to bear Christ