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  • Writer's picturePhil

Promises, Promises

“The Bank of England promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of…….”

Sometimes the Bank has to go back on its word when currency is devalued,

and the note in my wallet could be worth less when I come to spend it

than when I secreted it there in the first place.

The potency of the promise diminishes as inflation increases….

What about The Government - is it good at keeping promises? –

The Council?

Southern Rail!?

Railway companies seem to change their promise on a daily basis!

Do they honour their promises satisfactorily?

1. What promises have YOU made recently?

2. Are there any promises you find it hard to keep?

3. Are there any promises you regret having made?

4. Have you gone back on your word?

5. Are there some promises you make that are unrealistic to deliver?

Have you written your Christmas Cards yet?

What will you write?

A special message for your closest perhaps;

a little news for old friends and acquaintances,

but for most – “With best wishes for Christmas and the New Year”,

and perhaps just signed with a quick squiggle

as you try to reach the end of this particular Christmas marathon.

We might promise to write,

we promise "this year we really MUST meet up", ready to repeat these words again next Christmas! Human promises have a habit of proving unreliable, not deliberately;

sometimes we promise too much, and try as we might, cannot fulfil the promises we make to everybody.

Advent is about God's promise.

What God promises, God will do.

Words can be cheap.

Promises are easy to make

but hard to honour.

God’s word is different to ours –

always accompanied by action,

always ultimately fulfilled,

always dependable.


Have you promised to do something for someone,

and still haven't got round to it?

Is it a promise you can keep realistically,

or would it be better to admit you can't keep it,

or you could, but at a better time?

Is it a promise that would be better fulfilled by someone else,

in which case wouldn't it be less-pressure on you,

and better for the person to whom you have made the promise

to hand it over to someone better-equipped?

Think carefully, and pray that you may take the best action.


At the time, many thought John the Baptist was the Promise of God fulfilled.

He was challenging; didn't mind who he upset,

because he believed passionately he had a purpose,

which was to prepare the way for Christ.

O brave wilderness voice,

prophet of the Highest,

come among our markets

and consuming passions

and rebuke with your cry

our modern addictions

and frantic fashions.

O lonely, rough-hewn soul,

speaker of hard truths,

axe our mad, fruitless boasts

and viperous displays;

call us to that repentance

which we have deftly dodged

under pious cliches.

O smoother of crude ways,

mover of black mountains,

tread down our pampered pride

and cultured discontent;

straighten our twisted days

until each childlike hope

skips to meet the Advent.

from Beyond Words, copyright ©  B Prewer & JBCE 1995

John could make himself unpopular,

although what he said about Herodias probably endeared him

to the people even more.

He was imprisoned by Herod Antipas

(the son of Herod the Great, and ‘tetrarch’ (ruler) of Galilee and Peraea)

in his fortress at Machaerus in 27AD

because John publicly announced that Herod's marriage to Herodias,

his half-brother Herod Philip I's estranged wife,

was unconstitutional and wrong.

He paid for this with his life,

but had nevertheless kept his promise

to prepare the way for Jesus' ministry.

LUKE CHAPTER 1: "Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy."

Artist - Artist: Corby Eisbacher (2013) How has being encouraged by a friend impacted you? How can you encourage someone this week?

John, Baptist – the paths of the Lord which you promised to straighten

were never to be finished…

but your sombre, lonely life had one moment of joy.

In the sunlight you never smiled,

but once, in the dark urn-like womb of your mother,

where neither human threats nor the desert storms could reach,

you experienced a joy you couldn’t contain;

you encountered Him, enclosed in another womb.

This is the first time joy is mentioned in the Gospel,

and we owe it to you, doleful prophet.

This is where the good news begins,

with your invisible smile

and dance in the darkness of Elisabeth’s womb of renewed hope.

(Luigi Santucci)


My baby jumped for joy, I swear it!

I know you often feel them kicking,

But this was different, I’m positive.

It was the first time I’d ever felt it move for a start,

A wild lurch as Mary approached,

Almost as if it knew even then

She was carrying the child who would shape his life.

Yes, I know this sounds ridiculous,

And I wouldn’t give it another thought myself –

I’m not usually given to romanticising.

But when I saw Mary coming

I knew something out of the ordinary had happened.

I realised she was pregnant for one thing,

But then we women do spot these things, don’t we?

Not that it was showing yet, mind you,

But it was there in her eyes,

In her expression,

In the spring in her step,

Just as it had been in mine a few months earlier.

I knew,

And I ran to embrace her,

Sharing her joy.

But there was more to it than that,

I could feel it in my bones even before she began to speak.

I could sense that her child would be different,

Not just from mine but from every child,

The answer to our prayers.

You think that’s over-the-top?

Well, I may have over-reacted, I accept that,

Let my imagination run away with me.

I’d been a bit on edge, it’s true,

Ever since that odd business with Zechariah….

When he came back from the Temple, eyes staring, shaking his head,

Unable to say a word.

It got me down, I don’t mind admitting it,

And yes, perhaps I was a bit overwrought,

Perhaps just plain excited.

But I still say it,

Despite what anyone may think –

My child leaped in my womb,

Positively jumped for joy!

— Nick Fawcett, Prayer for All Seasons

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