God’s got you covered!
American theologian and author, Scott Hahn tells an interesting story about covenantal love. It was about an earthquake in Armenia which killed 25,000 people in 1998. And there was an anxious father rushing to his son’s school and being traumatized by though of the promise he always made to his little boy: “No matter what happens, my son, I will never abandon you.” Reaching there the school had been reduced to a pile of rubble, and the poor man just stood there at first fighting back tears. Then he ran over to where his son’s classroom had been and, with nothing but bare hands he started digging, desperately pulling bricks and pieces of wall plaster. One of the bystanders said: “it’s of no use, sir, they’re all dead” but the father just looked up and said to him: “You can criticize me or you can help me with the digging. A few people did join the effort but most gave up once their muscles began to ache.
This man just could not stop thinking about his promise to his son, and so he kept digging and digging – for 4 hours; 6 hours; 12 hours; 18 hours;24 hours. And finally, in the 38th hour, he heard a muffled groan from under a piece of wallboard. He quickly grabbed the board with all his strength, pulled it, and there was his son alive! Deliriously, he cried out to his boy – “Armand!”; and from the darkness came a slight, shaking voice – “Daddy!” And suddenly, other weak, tiny voices began to call out from beneath the rubble. In the end, fourteen of the thirty-three students were found alive. Then, the son turned to his friends and said: “See, I told you my father would never abandon us!” Dr Hahn concludes the story by saying that we need to have the faith of that little boy because our God is faithful and even more faithful than his father. Our God will never abandon us! Our God will never abandon you or your family because he is the promise keeper par excellence! His word is “Yes” and “Amen”! His steadfastness never ceases and his mercies never come to an end! My friends, our God’s got you covered!
In the First Reading, God promises to deliver King Ahaz from his enemies and the Prophet Isaiah warns him to trust only in the Lord and not in the Assyrians as that would be very costly. To reassure Ahaz, the Lord gives a sign that a virgin will conceive and bear a son, in fulfilment of his earlier promises to David and his descendants. His name will be Emmanuel, and he will be the ideal King and Fulfiller-in-Chief of divine promises. However, Ahaz foolishly made an alliance with the Assyrians and this lack of trust in the Lord led to the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Conversely, Mary said “yes” to God’s promise, having been told that she would conceive by the Holy Spirit and bear a Son. Mary did not shrink back in fear but instead, she went forward in faith trusting God to keep his promises. Joseph too trusted in the Lord as he was coming to terms with Mary’s mysterious pregnancy. By law, he was allowed to divorce Mary but, being a righteous man, he chose to do it quietly. But then came a message from the Lord that the child was of the Holy Spirit and would be the one to save his people from their sins. Joseph trusted in the Lord and took Mary home as his wife because he trusted the Lord to keep his promises. And that’s what we are called to do today!
At the moment, our excitement approaches boiling point as we await the coming of our Saviour! He is the perfect revelation of God the Father, the perfect expression of God’s unfathomable love, and the ultimate fulfilment of divine promises. In Jesus Christ, God is with us (Imma-nu-el)! He is with us in all our hopes and fears. He gently invites us to open our hearts to him so that, having been wounded by the experiences of life, we can learn to trust again, we can learn to hope again, and we can learn to love again. That is what Christmas is all about – breaking down walls and building bridges of healing, forgiveness and reconciliation!
Dear brothers and sisters, it is so easy to build walls around our hearts to protect them, but the walls end up keeping us isolated and keeping God out as well. But we don’t need to keep God out! We can trust that no matter how much this fallen world causes us to suffer; no matter how cold or indifferent the world may get, God’s love never weakens, his goodness never freezes. The love of God is like a warm lake in the middle of the arctic ice; it is like a big oasis in the middle of the Sahara! The ever-faithful heart of our Lord Jesus is always there to renew and to sustain us in-season and out-of-season. That is what Christmas is all about!
Brethren, Christmas is a reminder that God has kept his promises! Therefore, let us renew our commitment to him today! And let us make the resolve to keep our own promises! The promise to shun sin and the glamour of evil and the promise to imitate Christ in our daily lives by caring a bit more about those around us and by forgiving those who have hurt us! We need the courage to keep these promises because they are the path to a meaningful life and lasting happiness. We, priests are called be men who keep their promises to God and his people – men above board, men of integrity and strength of character, men of prayer and compassion, men who bring healing and reconciliation to God’s people, and men who lead people to Christ. Every religious man/woman is called to keep their own promises made before many witnesses, especially the evangelical counsels of poverty, obedience and chastity. Every family man is called to keep his promises to his wife and children – to love and protect them, and to be ready to lay down his life for them. Every woman is called to keep her own promises to her family, friends and neighbours – to be a homemaker, a home keeper, and a calming influence in the family. The politicians are called to keep their own promises made on oath – to uphold the rule of law, to avoid nepotism and other corrupt practices, and to assiduously work hard towards the upliftment of society. The medical people are called to keep their own promises too – to place human life and dignity over and above money and politics. Children too are called to keep their own promises – to respect, honour, and obey their parents, teachers and friends. We’ve all got out work cut out for us and that’s what Christmas is all about!
May the Father of all consolation and keeper of promises help us to have an abiding faith in him, and to show courage in keeping our own promises. Amen!