Friday, December 21, 2007


“The time is coming when I will keep the promise I made.”
—Jeremiah 33:14 (The Message)

“It’s exactly what he promised, beginning with Abraham and right up to now.”
—Luke 1:26 (The Message)
From the time she was born Mary’s parents were so proud. “She is full of promise,” they told themselves and their friends and Mary, too, as she grew: “You are so full of promise.” Believing it, would she be filled with plans, anticipating all the ways she would accomplish the dreams of those she loved? Or fearing it, would she be nervously calculating the balance sheet of her life to see if in the end, all the hoped-for promise paid off. But when the angel came to her and asked, she was open enough to be willing: “Be it unto me…” even though in this case being willing seemed to mean the certain death of the promise entrusted to her. “She was so full of promise, then this happened…” Mary, full of promise, ends up pregnant. And then, to the surprise of everyone who thought that was the end of Mary’s bright future, she is at last (and completely in the way God meant) full of promise.

In the space between “the time is coming” and “exactly what he promised,” there is a long and silent wait. Does delay of a promise intensify desire of its coming? Or does it cause us bit by bit to die to its light? When we are “full of promise,” does that mean we have more-than-the-average share of gifts and talents? Or it is to be so broken with waiting we have nothing left but promise to fill us up. We are so full of promise. We break promises and we keep them, and in the end they keep us. Keep us from falling apart, from falling into the worst of ourselves, from falling so far we are beyond the call of anyone to save us. And in that moment when “exactly as he promised” is fulfilled, it happens.

On the eve of a promise kept, a word to answer the silent prayers of the ages, a gift given over and over as many times as we remember. From that gift—now and ever, the call: To the ones who break promises, from the one who never does. Calling through noise, through time, through pain, through the silent places of the strongest heart. Calling, till there is nothing left but to take it up: A promise as rich and bright as the Indian sun. A promise hidden in the deep, dark eyes of a baby boy whose tiny hand never stops holding the hope of a world made new.

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