The Promise of Descendants
Spoken by Abraham:
“Ur of the Chaldeas, where I was born, is a land of gods. There are more gods in one city than there are fleas on my dog. They oppressed us with their demands. The cannot live without our constant service, and if we displease them, the rain does not fall. I would never say it aloud, but I think they are about as much good to us as the fleas are to the dog.
But one night I had a dream. A new God, a different God spoke to me in my dream. This God was different; I could tell it immediately. He spoke to me! To me! Not just my knees, but my very heart knelt before Him. All of the goodness and power of the whole earth and sky, all the mysteries of life and beauty swept over me, and I was terrified and burning with love at the same time! So when He told me that He was the One, the Living God, the only true god, I believed Him!
Then, He made a promise to me! To Me! He told me to leave Ur of the Chaldeas, and to travel to a different land; a place full of powerful strangers, because He promised He would give their good land to me, and to my descendants. My beautiful wife and I have no descendants; it has been our great sadness. But this One, the Living God, promised to give me descendants. Not just one, not even five. No, He promised me that He would give me descendants like the stars. And, and He said that my descendants, my children, would one day bless the whole earth. He promised to protect them and bless them, and that all the earth would be receive a great blessing through them!
That was over 40 years ago. Sarai and I left Ur of the Chaldeas with Lot and his family. We came to this wonderful land and set up our tents, and we prospered. Time passed, and I wondered if the Living God had forgotten His promise. But again He came to me, and repeated His promise to me. I was reassured, but now I am afraid.
Twice when food became scare, Sarai and I went to Egypt to live for a while, and twice I saved my own skin by telling Sarai to pretend to be my sister so Pharoah wouldn’t kill me for her if he thought she was my wife. The Living God was not pleased with me, and now I wonder if I have lost His blessing. I forgot to listen; that’s how it happened. I was afraid, and I forgot to trust Him.
We are very old now. We don’t know what we should do. Waiting for this Living God to keep His promise is hard and long. But I remember His goodness and glory that He showed me. I don’t want to stop hoping and waiting for Him.”
The Promise of Deliverance
Spoken by Moses:
“The Living God, the One who Is, spoke to me. To me!
He remembers a promise He made to our distant ancestor, Abraham, long ago when we were free.
He has given Abraham many children, just as He promised. But He also promised that those children would have a homeland. For time out of mind, our homeland has been Egypt, a place of powerful gods and crushing rulers, a place where we were chosen to be beasts of burden, sheep to be slaughtered. When my eyes were opened to the suffering of our people, I tried to free them. I killed an Egyptian, but I had to flee in terror and shame, and hide my face in the desert. I failed them.
And that’s where He spoke to me. To me!
He sent me and Aaron to bring them out, and take them to the good homeland He had promised them. He broke the power of Egypt’s gods, and crushed her ruler. He moved the very ocean out of our way, and walked us to safety! He brought us to the mountain to hear His voice and learn His ways. We all saw that His power is supreme, and His ways are good. When we heard His laws, our hearts burned within us! Oh, that we could be such people, full of honor and goodness, like Him! We all made a deep promise to obey Him, following His ways and worshipping only Him forever. We ate His food and followed His light, and came to the good homeland. We could see it, stretched out before us.
And yet…we failed Him.
Fear has been our master for so long. So long! For so many generations we have lived without hope. Our lives in Egypt were hard, sad and short. Our father’s fathers taught us to trust no one. Our mothers and their mothers before them knew that we were alone, even though we were crowded together in our hovels. Our brothers and sisters made sure we learned to rely only on ourselves. Fear has always been our master. Always.
Tomorrow my people will enter into their new homeland without me, with my last warning in their ears. I must stay here on this mountain, where I will die. Will they become obedient servants of our God? Or will my people always be slaves to fear, with pride and rebellion in their hearts? I think I know the answer.
And so our God, the One Who Is, waits for us to keep our promise. He is waiting for us to trust Him. Waiting for us to place our hope in Him. Waiting for us to rely on Him. Waiting for us to give Him our hearts.”
The Promise of a Baby
Spoken by Mary (very pregnant)
“This is not what you think. You will think I’m crazy, but The Holy Spirit of Almighty God made this baby, and entrusted him to me. An angel told me so. An angel told me that God will give my son the throne of David, and his kingdom will never end. His name is Jesus, the saviour of the people. I would think I was crazy, but my husband-to-be heard the same thing.
I would be paralyzed with fear, but…I’m just too overjoyed thinking about the goodness of our wonderful God!
Why me? Why not one of the rich, comfortable women who could give him what he deserves?
Almighty God is about to do the thing he has promised, and save His people. The whole world will come to know His glory and see His kingdom! And who has He told? With whom has He started? Us! Two lowly, women! My elderly cousin Elizabeth, and me, a virgin of no account. Does He even love the very donkeys under their burdens, and the dogs on the rubbish heaps? You know, I think maybe He does.
Joseph is a good man, but we are small people. Our son will see poverty, hardship, and suffering.
God is turning the world upside down. His kingdom is coming! This child I carry is God at the very bottom of creation. Do I dare to dream that He will make the world right? That He will break sinful hearts and cause the mighty to kneel?
I will sing my song to God. Will you hear it?
My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
Spoken by Joseph
It’s funny how things can change, all in an instant.
I run a carpentry shop back home. It’s a good, steady trade, plenty of work and a good income. I’d been working for a few years and thought that the time was about right to settle down. After all, the Rabbis say that ‘a man who has no wife lives without joy, without blessing, and without goodness.’
It was all arranged for us, of course – my father suggested a local girl called Mary. I’d known her as she grew up – a pretty girl, hard-working and from a respectable family, she’d make a good wife and a good mother to our children. Her family agreed to the match, and we were formally betrothed.
I spent the time leading up to our marriage making furniture for our new home together, and now we were engaged, I could see more of Mary. I knew she was faithful and good – but I didn’t know she was so funny! I didn’t get much done in the workshop when she came to visit, but I loved spending time talking to her. I found myself really looking forward to getting married, to having all the time in the world to spend together.
Then, in an instant, things changed.
Mary came to the workshop, her eyes red with crying. She seemed…frightened of me, and could hardly speak. Eventually, she blurted out the words, “I’m pregnant.”
I felt like someone had punched me, hard, in the stomach, as though my breath was stopped up in my throat. My Mary, the good, respectable girl, had betrayed me, had shattered my hopes and my dreams. Then came the anger – I wanted to know who the other man was, I was going to make him pay! But she just gave me some cock-and-bull story about an angel telling her she would bear God’s Son – as though anyone would believe that!
I told her to get out while I thought about what to do. I could have stood in the marketplace and told the world what she had done – disgracing her and her family for good, in a little town like this. I could have asked for her to be stoned to death – they don’t enforce it much anymore, but that is the Law. I could carry out my vengeance if I chose.
But no, that’s not me. I struggle to kill spiders – how could I ask for the death of someone I loved? Because I still did love her – that love hadn’t turned to hate despite what she had done. I grieved, though, for the death of our future together, and because she’d felt she had to lie, too.
I decided to send her away. She could go to her cousin in Jerusalem, where no one else knew her or me, and could tell them she was a widow. I wouldn’t have to see her – but she wouldn’t be disgraced either. It was the best way, I decided.
I felt exhausted with all the emotion, and went to my room. It is hard to pray with a heart that is empty, and the words of the prayer at night seemed hollow to me. Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu, melekh ha`olam…Blessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe…it is not easy to praise God in the darkness.
I fell into a deep sleep and again, in an instant, things changed.
It was the clearest dream I’ve ever had, as clear in my memory as it was when it was happening. An angel – something like a man with wings, a messenger from God himself, came to me. He said his name was Gabriel, and he said:
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
She had been telling me the truth.
When I woke, I went to her, and said we should pretend the baby was mine. We wouldn’t be the first couple to have a child less than nine months after the wedding, and we were able to arrange that wedding quite quickly. People probably sniggered, guessing that she was pregnant, but I was just pleased that my Mary was with me again. Now we’re on our way to Bethlehem, to the city of my ancestor David, for this Roman census, and it looks like Jesus will be born there.
God broke into our lives, and everything changed for us. I don’t know what our future will be but, O Adonai, bless us as we walk this unexpected path. Amen.
The Promise of a King
Spoken by a Wise Man (holding a large scroll)
“We wise men of the east have heard the Living God! We have studied for generations, watching the stars, charting the heavenly bodies. We have searched and collected the wise writings from all the nations, and we study them. We knew in our hearts that we were looking for the Living God, the One who Is. You feel that searching and longing in your bones too, don’t you?
The God we seek, the Light of the World, would you believe it? He is the one who has been speaking to that little, insignificant country of Israel for ages past. And now He has spoken to us! To us!
How do we know this? He has sent us a star! Not an ordinary star in the heavens, not a comet or planet, but a Messenger. It came to us, moving across the land! So full of light and beauty and power from God that we fell on our faces to worship that God who sent it. We searched the scrolls of Israel to find out what this star might mean.
Long ago, through Israel’s prophet Isaiah, the God speaks of a holy King who is to be born to the Jews. This King will restore Israel. And the God says to this King, “I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, (that’s us, beloved!) that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” Isaiah goes on to say that kings and princes of all the earth will bow down before this chosen one, this Servant King. He says that in the age of this King, the glory of the Living God will cover the land. And at that time all the nations will come to the light, and their rulers will be drawn to the brightness. And the wealth and the riches of the nations will be brought to the city of the Holy One.
What do you think of that? The Living God, the God of Israel has made a sacred promise to us to give this King of the Jews to us. Like a great river overflowing its banks, the blessing of Israel is poured out over us, though we are far away. What a merciful and great God!
And now this miraculous star has come to us. The King has been born! The new age has begun! Why are all the nations of the world not laying down their bows and swords and spears? Why is everyone not rushing to Israel to worship this king who has been born to the Jews? We have noticed something: not everyone can see this star. And sadly, not everyone wants to. Perhaps in the end of days, they will.
For now, we care! We have followed this star to Israel. We were looking for the holy King, so we went to the palace, but he was not there. We found only evil ones there. When we left them, the star met us again, and took us to the last place you would expect: a humble home, and a poor family. And there he was!
I tell you, we are counted as wise and powerful in the world, but we knelt before this infant as humble servants. We brought the gifts and the worship that the whole world will one day bring. Yes, you and I, outsiders though we are, have been promised a savior, and he has come! And we are promised more. The day shall come when what is written shall be fulfilled: Every knee shall bow, those in heaven, those on earth, and those under the earth, and every tongue shall confess that this child is the Lord, the Light, and the savior of the earth. That is a promise to hold on to! “
The Promise of the Messiah
Spoken by Simeon:
“Here I am in the Temple of the Lord. I was eating my morning meal when I felt God’s Spirit nudge me back here to the Temple, where I spend so much of my time.
Oh, I am old. Years ago, the Holy Spirit of God promised me that I will not see death until I have seen His Messiah, the consolation of Israel with my own eyes. And my friend Anna the prophetess is old. Since she was young, she has been living here in the temple, serving God and waiting for Him to fulfil His promise of a Messiah to save Israel. Long and long we two have waited, and now at last God is moving! My friend, bony old Zachariah the priest and his ancient wife have a son, given to them by the Lord! A son who will prepare Israel to receive her salvation!
We old ones have been faithful to the Law, and we are eagerly waiting for the hope that the Lord promised through the prophets of old. The beautiful Law and the holy prophets!
But when our Messiah comes, the Living God will encounter His people in a new way. Messiah will be the very word of God, living with us! He will wash our hearts, and remove the unrighteousness of Judah. All the world will see this and they will see the glory of the goodness of our God!
But some will fall because of him. Some will stand here in this the very Temple of God, where I stand now, and they will turn away from his light. Many who seem righteous will be revealed by our Messiah to be false, and many who seem lost will receive him and know his consolation.
God keeps His word, and His salvation will come. As I stand here, I can feel Moses and the and prophets of old standing with me. Zachariah the priest and his Elizabeth, Anna and I, we old ones have been faithful. I can feel us all rejoicing that our time is passing away, and the Messiah of God will bring his kingdom in a new way. Then we will depart in peace, as our Lord has promised.
Look! I see a man and woman coming up the Temple steps, poor people with a new baby. And I see that they are full of light!”