Fourth Sunday of Advent 18 December 2016

“Tell Out, My Soul” verse 4

Tell out, my soul, the glories of God’s word!

Firm is the promise and God’s mercy sure;

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord

to children’s children and forever more!

By Timothy Dudley-Smith


Matthew 1:21-23

“‘She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’  All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:  ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel’, which means, ‘God is with us.’”

Promises, promises!  How many promises have been made to the people of this land?  Promises of good will, promises of return, promises of peace.  And how many of these promises have been kept?

advent-pic-treePalestinians were forced out of their homes in 1948, many with the promise that they would be allowed to return within a few weeks, but almost 70 years later there is still no return.  Oslo promised a Palestinian state in 5 years, and yet, 23 years later, the people are still longing for a state of their own.  How easy it is to become cynical when we hear another promise being made, especially when we look back at all the broken promises that we have experienced.

But the hymn above tells us, “Firm is the promise and God’s mercy sure.”  Why should we believe that?  I remember a professor of mine, a Catholic priest, who taught us about “memory, imagination and anticipation” as a way of living and practicing our faith in God.  Memory – recalling how God has acted in the past; Imagination – trusting that the same God is acting in the present moment; Anticipation – believing that this same God will be with us in the same way in the future.

The Christmas story is one of great promises, beginning with promises to the prophets of a coming Messiah, then of a child to the virgin Mary, and to the shepherds a promise of peace and goodwill to all people.

The promises of God are firm and sure.  They are not like manmade promises.  They can be trusted.  God’s promise came to us at Christmas in the birth of a baby in Bethlehem.  His promise is one of peace and goodwill for all people.  Let us work together with God at making this promise a reality.

Lord, help us to trust you as we look around and see a broken world.  May your promises strengthen our faith and give us hope.  Amen.   


Devotion written by Tina Whitehead, Member of the Western Pennsylvania United Methodist Conference, Individual Volunteer serving in Palestine and Israel for 10 years.

Picture:  An olive tree coming back to life in the midst of a demolished village. The promise of hope.  Picture credit:  Tina Whitehead.

Advent Wreath:  Candle holders are olive wood Bethlehem Star, the Candles are placed in tear gas canisters, the olive wall panels represent the wall around Bethlehem and many other areas in the West Bank area of Palestine (available through the YWCA of Jerusalem), the green carpet is made by women from the Negev, and the scarfs represent men and women.  Photo taken by Kristen L. Brown 


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