Every morning, a great light sparkles on the horizon. A downpour of warmth rushes over a dark and sleepy landscape. Sometimes covered by clouds, sometimes shining in solitary glory, the sun covers our planet with a predictable pattern that we almost daily forget. The sun continues to show up, lighting up the world even without our acknowledgment.
Back in the beginning of all things, this great light was the first good gift from God. Speaking light into darkness, God gathered the warm light into a heavenly body. He pointed that light to feed, nourish and care for his creation. He provided that light so that plants and creatures, man and woman, would be able to live on His earth. And even today, we can still gaze at the wondrous promise of an enlightened creation, given by a Word of God.
But just looking at our sun would not provide all of this information. In our world today, we could observe the distance and heat, behavior and path in our short lifetime living under the sun. But we could only guess at its why and when. We could only wonder at its purpose and future by the observable data before us. But when God adds His promise to creation, we understand a greater reality than what we see: Light given; Light that sustains life; Light that will end up living in the midst of his people forever. And every time we see the sun rise before us, we remember His Word, His promise, His everlasting world that will remain lit forever.
Then comes the rain: drenching the warm and hopeful earth and covering the bright, clear sun with its stormy clouds. Pouring down doubt, death and worry on everyone who walks on the earth. His promise is hidden. His story of life is lost in the dark sky. Yet this is where the promise is given, yet again. The forgotten sun shines a single ray through a drop of rain, painted against the black sky. Shining a rainbow in the clouds, proclaiming the promise with a splash of color. Without our effort or action, the promise still lives.
And in the new beginning after the judgment flood from God, a rainbow was a reminder of His promise of life. Evil and terror were washed away in the catastrophic waters, and new life sprang forth. Speaking a covenant of life from death, God renewed His promise to His creation with a bow in the sky. We see this magnificent display, even in the midst of a storm, and recall the good gifts of our God.
But just looking at a rainbow would not give us the comfort of this story. In our world today, we can measure the light waves and observe the colors in their spectrum. We could explain the refraction of light, dispersing it into a multicolored picture across the heavens. But only when God adds His promise to creation do we understand a greater reality than what we see: the tender heart of God, acting mercifully for the salvation of his people, reminding them of his good light even in the scariest of times. And every time we see a rainbow, we remember his Word, His promise, His everlasting love that will last forever.
Then we walk along, further and further past the great historical actions of God. Wandering in a world where His promises fade into the background, forgetting the Words that our ancient sisters and brothers saw with their own eyes. Each new generation surely sees His sun and rainbow, but do they also remember His promise?
A baby screams in the middle of a silent room. Like nails on a chalkboard, everyone within earshot cringes instinctively. Such a small helpless form, drowning in a tiny basin of water. Struggling and fighting, dangling from the arms of an ordained hitman of God. And then silently, a new creation is born by the water and God’s Word. Filling her lungs with her first breath as a redeemed child, the baby screeches again, even as the life-giving promise marks her forehead.
Here, God is actively recreating and choosing His children. Crucifying her with Christ, raising her to new life. Water floods over, she drowns and dies to sin. The promise of her resurrected life begins today, immediately, as she is now a special heir of God’s eternal kingdom by Christ’s death and resurrection. Scream as she might, His Word is greater. He speaks a moment of eternal assurance into this little girl’s life. She can always look to Christ’s action for her in the waters of her own baptism.
But simply observing water poured on a screaming baby would not inspire hope for this little girl. In our world today, we could document mundane actions in every part of life that communicate nothing beyond what we see. He drank a glass of wine, she had a few drops of water above her brow.
Uninteresting, tangible rituals that don’t visibly communicate anything important. Only when God adds His promise to creation do we understand a greater reality than what we see. Cleansed by blood, whiter than snow, a restored creation of God by no action of her own. And every time we touch our own bathed head and heart, we remember his Word, His promise, His forgiveness through Christ that is ours forever.
The sun shines God’s promise on her hopeful face. The rainbow breaks God’s promise through her most depressing days. The waters of her own baptism confess God’s promise to her, personally. And when God adds His promise to creation, she understands a greater reality than what she sees.