The Power of Promise
When God’s people first heard these words they were lost in despair. For decades they had been held as captives in a foreign land. Between them and home were the might of the Babylonian empire and over 500 miles of desert wilderness. It might have been tempting to see themselves as victims, but God’s word and promise gave them a choice called hope. God promised that he would come, defeat their enemies, gather them up in his arms and carry them home. That’s a powerful promise, and promise has the power to birth the dawn of hope into even the darkest of circumstances. Promise opens a door where our eyes can only see walls.
That’s a good word for us because we’re living in some dark days. Not just the depths of winter but the darkness of racial tensions and senseless violence. I think about the events of the past few weeks. Mass shootings in Paris and San Bernardino. Two Lakeville South students killed and two others injured in a rollover accident. At least 15 killed and over 130 injured in a bombing in Chad. And that just scratches the surface of the news. It feels as if this world is in captivity, in bondage to hatred, greed and violence. It’s easy to feel hopeless.
And yet, the promise of God’s love and redemption has been born into this world. In Jesus God proclaims, “I will never leave you or forsake you. Though you are faithless, I am faithful. I am at work in the world. Do not be afraid.” The question is do we believe those promises? Do we believe them enough to refuse to live in fear and instead choose to be a people who live and proclaim hope?
David Lose, president of Philadelphia Luther Seminary wrote,
“…optimism assumes things will soon get better…hope testifies that whether things get better or worse yet ultimately God’s good will for us and all creation will prevail. And rooted in that promise, we can take action today, standing with the good, opposing evil, and doing what we can, not because we expect or need to save the world, but rather because we believe that since God will save the world we are free to throw ourselves into taking care of the little corner of the world in which we find ourselves.” 
We’re not called to be optimists. We’re called to be people of hope. That’s the power of promise, and a good reminder to us in this Advent season, a season in which we watch and wait for the light of God’s redemption to dawn into the darkness of these dark days. I challenge you this week to think about what it means to be a people of faith and hope, no matter what the news says. How will you live differently because of the promise born into this world and into your life in Jesus Christ? Now go live it.
Jeff Marian is lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN http://www.davidlose.net/2013/10/on-hope/