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The Promise of Advent


Did you buy anything in the Black Friday sales? I find it somewhat ironic that many of the images and descriptions of offers rarely match the reality of the product when they arrive. Like many, I was sent various emails pointing to something that would change my life for the better: ‘Buy this gadget, and you will lose weight.’, read the message; I certainly lost a few pounds…about £32.99 if I include the delivery charge, but ultimately the promise of a new physique has yet to materialise - perhaps it is still too soon?


As we go through life, we encounter numerous daily promises: ‘Use this in your wash, and you too can have glowing whites.’ ‘Spray this perfume on, and you will become irresistible to the opposite sex.’ ‘Wear these shoes/t-shirt/trousers, and you will be cool.’ ‘Vote for us, and we will make your life better.’ Ultimately, these promises rarely fulfil our expectations.


Our culture seems plagued by broken or hollow promises; as our politicians frequently show us, their word is not always their word. The trouble is broken, or hollow promises can make people feel somewhat cynical and reluctant to believe any promises made. What is the saying, ‘Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.’


Advent is a season rooted in promise, the promise that makes hope a way of life for God’s people. God’s promises thread their way through the entire canon of scripture, and it is important that we share them. Nevertheless, we must keep in mind the cultural backdrop into which we speak, that of broken promises. There is work for us to do in explaining how God’s promise, as fulfilled in Jesus, is something that can still be trusted today. Just saying “because it is in the Bible...” may no longer be sufficient; additional context and, more importantly, our personal experience are needed, too.


During the past week, I’ve been thinking a lot about Jeremiah 33. In this passage, Jeremiah, who is in prison, gives words of encouragement when things seem hopeless. Personally, I found it striking that instead of stating that “things might get better” or encouraging hope for the future, Jeremiah asserts that “they will get better because of the promise of God” (33:14).


Our world today is filled with fear, uncertainty, and despair in an uncanny resemblance to the context of Jeremiah; however, as heirs to Jeremiah’s mission, I believe that we are also called to speak words of promise and hope into our world.


But this means more than simply quoting Bible verses at people; alongside this, it is essential to speak words of hope born out of our personal experience during this Advent season. Sharing with people how God has already shown himself to be faithful in our lives. How God has never left or deserted us thus far and has never allowed us to endure more suffering than we can handle. In particular, that God’s love for us has never wavered, nor has His love for others ever been under question, is as important as quoting Isaiah 9. For some, we might be the only Bible that they read.


So, this Advent, as we tell others of the promises of God, let us also share the promises of God that have come true in our lives, that we each bear personal testimony to the promise of a Saviour, and His name is Jesus..


Simon Mattholie CEO, Rural Ministries

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