Day 1 — Sunday, November 27, 2022

It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the LORD
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it,
and many peoples shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore.

O house of Jacob,
come, let us walk
in the light of the LORD.
Isaiah 2:2–5

Sometimes God’s promises seem, not just distant… they seem impossible.

Light is coming? Maybe, but I can’t see it.

A time of no more conflict? A time of no more disputes? A time when nation won’t take up sword against nation? Hard to believe all that when division here, just in our nation, seems near an all-time high.

The natural question to ask God in response to these promises is: How can this be?

That is precisely the question Mary posed to the angel Gabriel when he told her that she would give birth to the world’s Savior.

His answer: “The word of God never fails” (Luke 1:37). In other words, if God said it, it will happen. Just trust Him.

I’ve often thought, in my moments of doubt, how nice it would be to have that kind of assurance of a promise from God — directly from an angel. But after further reflection, I realize the angel was only with her for a few minutes. Then Gabriel left. And Mary was alone, trying to explain her pregnancy to everyone else. And I’m guessing no one believed her. Why would you? It’s not like this had ever happened before.

I wonder… faced with the doubt of others around her, did she ever start to doubt the promise herself? How could you not doubt if you were her? Because things quickly got complicated. Just as she is due to have the baby, a census gets called. So, she has to travel, which isn’t very pleasant. Then she gets there and there’s nowhere to stay. So, they get stuck in a barn just as she is going into labor.

I imagine her looking at the blood and water in the dirt and thinking, “If this baby is really from God, shouldn’t things be a little easier? Shouldn’t this whole thing be a little less of a train wreck?”

And then, all of a sudden some shepherds show up. They say angels appeared to them and told them this baby is indeed the savior of the world.

The word of God never fails.  

But sometimes, it sure looks like it might fail. 

Fast forward thirty-three years later. Mary finds herself at the foot of the cross with her son dead. Once again, she finds herself staring at blood and water on the ground, wondering, “Did I make the whole thing up? He was supposed to save the world. It wasn’t supposed to end this way.” 

And then, three days later…  The word of God never fails.

But, it sure looks like it’s going to fail. 

God has made promises over each of our lives. And He has made promises to us as a community — that we would be a beacon of hope for the world. Along the journey toward these promises being fulfilled, there will be many moments of doubt and discouragement. I find great comfort in the reality that often, just when things seem farthest away from victory, that’s precisely when God’s triumph is nearest. When things are at their darkest point, light is on the verge of breaking through.

Whatever you’re going through right now, as we begin the season of Advent, let’s remember that light is coming.

How do we know? Because God said so. And the word of God never fails.

Matthew Scogin is the president of Hope College.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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