December 4th, 2013

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Dec 4 – Abraham and Sarah caught laughing

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Scripture: Genesis 15 & 18

Proverbs 13:12 says. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”

When God told Abraham under the night sky: Your offspring will be as numerous as the stars in the sky (Gen 15:5-6), he was serious.  Abraham took him seriously and believed.  But after thirty years of waiting to see God’s promise fulfilled he could only see that promise being fulfilled through Ishmael (Gen 18:18). Ishmael was after all the only son he had.  God’s promise however, was even greater than Abraham’s ability to believe.  God said: “[Sarah], your wife…will give you a son…I will bless her, and she will become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”  Abraham, the one who we are instructed to emulate for his faith, fell on his face and laughed.

Is this why God sent the visitors?  I have noticed how company in my home can change how I perceive my reality.  When I’m too alone I can lose hope, become jaded and even cynical. Holding onto hope is hard work and emotionally draining as the Proverbs verse above admits. Sometimes I need a witness, someone who brings ‘Good tidings of great joy’ and they bring it in person, into my home.

The three visitors arrive and Abraham rushes to provide the important hospitality. My Bible calls them men, but uses the term reserved for God (LORD) for one of them.  I remember that Sunday School teachers preferred to speak about them as angels. The Eastern Orthodox church holds to the tradition that this is an appearance of the Holy Trinity. But whether they are servant angels sent from God or some divine representation of the Trinity, Abraham’s esteem for them gives us a sense of their importance and of their mystery.  As they finish their meal and recline to talk, they announce to Abraham that Sarah will have a son.  This time they have details.  By this time next year, she’ll be holding a baby.

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( Rublev’s famous Icon of Abraham’s Hospitality)

Then it is Sarah’s turn.  Hidden in the serving tent, she overhears their conversation and laughs, she too has been worn thin by waiting.  Her words however betray her heart, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?”  Not simply, ‘shall I have a child’, but ‘pleasure’, a word rich with longing and desire.

God promises; God fulfills.  Abraham and Sarah accepted the promise; Abraham and Sarah experienced the reality.  It is the Proverbs verse illustrated.  The faith that is takes to accept the promise and the endurance it takes to hold onto it are only satisfied in fulfillment of that promise.  For Abraham and Sarah, hope deferred did make their hearts sick and their responses awkward, but when the desire was satisfied it was like stars enough to fill a night sky and descendents enough to fill a family tree of life.

The message that the three visitors came bearing to Abraham and Sarah contained exactly what they needed to hear.  It was a birth announcement: “Is there anything too hard for the LORD?”  (18:14)

Lord Jesus, as we turn toward Christmas, turn our hearts toward you. Amen

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Marc Chagall, Sarah and the Angels, 1960.