Growing up, my favorite Christmas decoration every year was the nativity scene. High on the mantle, the white porcelain characters crowded the manger surrounded by greenery and lights. I remember asking my mom most nights if it was time to turn on the lights and illuminate the scene. To me, it wasn’t Christmas until those bulbs glimmered in their reflection off the glassy figurines. The tree could be up and decorated, littered with presents underneath, but the nativity always drew me.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve loved reading and learning more about the long-awaited Savior. And while Christmas celebrates Jesus’ earthly arrival, the story started centuries earlier. It certainly did for Mary. This Jewish teenager had heard her entire life that God was bringing his people a rescuer, a Savior, someone who would make right what was all wrong. Her conversations with family multiple times a year probably centered on this coming King who would bring everlasting peace and justice.
But it had been 400 years since anyone had heard from God. The God that had physically talked with the fathers of Mary’s faith had seemingly fallen silent. And after centuries of a promise being handed down with no new stories to tell, one has to wonder, Did belief in God’s promise wane?
If it did for some, it doesn’t appear it did for Mary. Imagine the surprise of this faithful teenage girl when she was the first one in 400 years to receive a message from God! A message that began with the phrase, “You are highly favored.” Translation: “You are special, Mary, because you still believe in God’s promise.” And the angel unfolded for her a plan that probably took a lifetime to understand. But, in the final moments of that encounter, a girl who had heard for years that a promised Savior was coming was given one of the most reassuring truths about God: “No word from God will ever fail” (Luke 1:37).
When we feel God is long-delayed in delivering on his promises to us—promises of peace or hope or provision—every Christmas can remind us anew that no promise our heavenly Father has ever given will go unfulfilled. And when God delivers on his promises, it may look nothing like you thought, planned, or wanted. But you can trust it will be better than you expected.