Monthly Archives: December 2018

Simeon’s Song

**An Audio recording of this message is available in the right sidebar of this page or at www.soundcloud.com

Title: Simeon’s Song

Text: Luke 2.21-35

Introduction: Well, here we are just a day away! We’ve made our way through three of the Christmas songs. Zechariah’s Song, Mary’s Song, last week – the Angels’ song, and this morning we’ll look at Simeon’s Song.

We’re in Luke 2.21. We’ll also be in two other places this morning – and we’ll read a significant portion of those Scriptures when we get there – so, you’ll want to bookmark them. Leviticus 12 & Isaiah 52. Go ahead and mark that spot in your Bible. Leviticus 12 and Isaiah 52.

Let’s begin with the reading of the text (Luke 2.21-35). Rd Lk 2.21-35

I think it is interesting that Luke tells us so much about what this family is doing. There is a lot of action and there is a lot of explanation: circumcision on a specific day, naming the son at that time, a period of time passes for her purification. Then, as that time passes they all go to the Temple for some sort of presentation of themselves and the baby in the Temple, with it all culminating in a sacrifice. There are details surrounding it all.

Typically, for us as Americans, we already know the name of the baby when he or she is born. Why wait 8 days before giving the baby his name? Besides, from earlier in the story, they already knew his name was going to be Jesus! Come to think of it – it was the same with John. They knew his name early on but didn’t go to name him until the 8th day. And what is with the purification process? How long does it last and what is involved in all of that? What is the issue with circumcision? How does all of this fit in the story of Jesus and what is the purpose in it all?

Before we begin to answer some of the questions, I’d like to make a note of something I just said and ask you to think about it: did you notice I mentioned the naming of Jesus on the 8th day when he was going to be circumcised? And then, I said the same thing about John? When studying the Bible, I think these sorts of points or information should get our attention. We should be asking ourselves if there is something being repeated? Is it similar to what is in the other story? If it is, then are there other similarities? If there is, could there be a pattern to these stories? Finally, why is Luke writing in such a manner?

`St. Augustine said: The Old (Testament) is in the New (Testament) revealed. The New (Testament) is in the Old (Testament) concealed.

That is precisely what we see going on in our text today. In order to understand much of what is taking place in this New Testament passage, we need to look back and understand some of the Old Testament!

I’ve often commented on how it would be nice if we could become Jewish before we become Christians. Now, please understand that I am being hyperbolic. I do not really believe people should become Jewish before they become Christian! But, my point is that we really need to understand the Jewish mindset – culturally, sociologically, religiously, philosophically – to better understand what it means to be a Christian. A broader understanding of the Old Testament will illuminate the New Testament for us.

This morning in our NT passage we see the OT, “Jewish-ness” of this family. Our text picks up in 2.21; all of these rituals, practices, and actions played a huge part in the life of any Jewish family when a child was born. Check out these keywords quickly with me:

  • Circumcision in v 21
  • Purification in v 22
  • The Law of Moses; v 22
  • Presentation; v 22
  • The Firstborn male; v 23
  • The Law of the Lord, v 23; v 24
  • Sacrifice; v 24;
  • The Consolation of Israel, v 25
  • The Custom of the Law, v 27

Transition: We’ll look at these a little closer in a moment, but for now, this is the application for us in all that we see with this little family: Faith should be observable.

Faith is lived out in a very public way: Luke is writing for many people who are not Jewish and don’t understand the Jewish mindset. I think even today there is much we don’t understand. It’s good for us to see this. We see someone and we recognize that they are Jewish: the hat, the beard, the hair that curls down long in front of the ears, the sash, the tassels. We see and we recognize, but do we know why each of these traits and characteristics serves a point? They all mean something!

In our text, as we begin reading, we will note that this family is Jewish.

1st, we see that this family is Jewish.

And (even greater than that) we see their obedience to that Jewish faith. What I mean is that it isn’t just that their racial identification is Hebrew. Their faith is something that is lived out, which is the way it should be. They are going where they should be going and doing what they should be doing when they should be going and doing it!

  • Time frames are set in v 21 & 22; Lev. 12.1-2a; you might wonder why the Jews waited until the 8th Well, first of all, mom is considered unclean. This practice is so important for the Jews and we Gentiles miss out when we don’t get this. The teaching of what is clean and unclean demonstrates for the Jews the holiness of God, and, not to treat God in a way that is irreverent. Rd Lev 12.3; So, once mom has been considered ceremonially clean, there is a very important ceremony that she should be a part of for her baby boy – his circumcision. This process is so very important because it is an outward symbol of God’s Covenant with his people – the Jews. So, just in Luke 2.21, we see some very important Jewish traditions being played out, that we might not know if we’ve never studied the Jewish faith. Consider again Luke’s audience – to whom he is writing. Those Gentiles might not know very much about the Jewish faith.
  • 2ndly we see the Law of Moses and its importance in their lives. Rd v 22; In going back to Lev 12, we see the requirements set out. Rd Lev. 12.4; Continuing 33 days from 7 days = 40 total days. In our text in Luke, we see that he was probably circumcised in Bethlehem – probably at the local synagogue. Mary wouldn’t be allowed in the Temple area. But now, after 40 days, the time of her purification would be complete. Their family would then travel the 6 miles or so to Jerusalem to the Temple to make their sacrifice for Jesus. But why? Well, there are a couple of reasons. Luke explains in v. 23f; rd v 23f;

exp.: 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, [so he’s telling us where this is, which by the way, isn’t a quote] “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”); Just so you know, the requirements for sacrifice are set out in the book of Exodus at the Passover. God said that every firstborn son belongs to him. If it was an animal, depending on the animal, then it was to be sacrificed to God. If this was a son – that is, human, then it was to be redeemed. And so Luke continues: 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Luke is actually referring back to the Leviticus passage: rd Lev. 12.6-8; So we see some important markers with this family – namely, that they were poor. But don’t miss the most important teaching moment from Luke: this identifies for us their obedience to the Law. They were Jewish – and they were practicing Jews – faithful to their God.

2nd, they name their son, Jesus, according to the τὸ ῥῆμά of God through Gabriel. So they’re faithful to their religion, but they also demonstrate their piety in their attention to the plan of God. They offer sacrifices and perform their ceremonial tasks according to the Word of God. But, they also stick to the plan as outlined by the angel – τὸ ῥῆμά of God. I think it is interesting that the Angel appears to both Mary and Joseph at different times and in two different places. And, in both instances, the Angel makes it clear that the baby’s name is to be, Jesus. You read chapter 2.1-7. The baby is born – but he isn’t named in v1-7! He isn’t named until they come 8 days later to observe the Law for their newborn son. And, in that ceremony, they demonstrate their trust that God has a plan for their little boy. That very public demonstration of their faith is that they give him the name, Jesus.

You probably remember there was one requirement set out by the angel. Back up in 1.31-32: 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.

Joseph had two requirements set on him: Marry Mary and name your son, Jesus. Over in Matthew 1, beginning in v 18 it reads: 18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

  1. Marry Mary and 2. Name this baby boy, Jesus.

Transition: So they are living out their faith in a very public way.

There is a 2nd application for us here: Faith should be deeply private and personal.

Faith lived out in a very private way:

Here, Luke does another… meanwhile, back at the ranch transition. This is a… meanwhile, back in Jerusalem transition. Rd v 25a; So, we meet another character and we get to know just a little bit about him: rd v 25b; Here’s what we know about Simeon.

  • He was righteous and devout.
  • He was waiting for the consolation of Israel.

What exactly does that mean? Well, if you were Jewish, you would know. But for us Gentiles, we need a little help. So, let me show you. Isaiah 52 & 53; So, Simeon has been waiting for this Messiah, this Arm of the Lord.

As we move forward through to V 26, it tells us of a supernatural experience in such a way that τὸ ῥῆμά of God was revealed to him. Rd v 26; Basically, that he would not taste death before he saw the Messiah. Did the Holy Spirit reveal this in a dream, like with Joseph? No tango idea. But this had to be pretty powerful. Consider it: centuries in the making and now someone is promised that he will see God’s Anointed, God’s Messiah in his lifetime.

Ill.: the only way I can even begin to equate it would be if one of you had a supernatural experience with the Holy Spirit and were told in no uncertain terms that you would not taste death before Jesus returned again. That would be so cool! But, I’m not sure that is something you could share with people. They would think you were nuts!

App.: Please allow me to share something of experience here… I want you to know that these times of God’s supernatural communication are a very real experience. I don’t want to downplay what has happened with Simeon and I sure don’t want you to think that God doesn’t work that way today. Let me offer this caveat with this application. We don’t see communication with God like this on a daily basis. So, neither should you! I’m not saying it isn’t possible. God can do as he pleases. But, most of us don’t even listen to God when he speaks us through His Word – logos or rhema. And in case you’re wondering, Yes, I’ve had supernatural experiences like this in my walk with God.

  • I call these times Pearls from God. Don’t cast your Pearls before swine! If you ever have an experience like this, it isn’t precious to other people. If you cast your pearls before others, there is a high probability they’ll be trampled underfoot.

They are called pearls because they are precious and they are very rare. Consider Abraham. How often do we see God interacting in a supernatural way? Very few times. And often long periods between.

exp.: The Holy Spirit was at work in Simeon (26) – leading him, guiding him (27). Rd v 27a; Ok, so Simeon is living out his faith in a very private way. Rd 27b; Wow… these parents are being obedient to the Law – living out their faith in a very public way. They’re on their way to fulfill their obligation to the law… when BAM! – they collide!

Simeon knows right away that this is the Messiah – this little baby has come to save the World! So, he sweeps him up in his arms. I wonder if the parents are caught off guard?

Can I pause and give us an application here? God works in and through us when we’re being faithful, living out what we believe in both public and private ways. And a song is born in Simeon. Let us go through this line by line:

  • Now is the first word of importance in this song. It takes the place of emphasis in the sentence structure. I think the English language looses that a little. The 2nd most important word in this sentence is the word You see, in the Greek, words appear in any order the speaker or writer wants. He puts them in the order he wants to emphasize. With Simeon, it is Now and in Peace.

That is what Christ brings! Now, when we give our lives to him, he brings peace. Undefinable, Unexplainable, incomprehensible peace. Sins washed away – Peace! A wasted life, to Peace! A messed up marriage, to Peace. A broken heart that’s been shattered – Peace.

Can anyone here tell me the Candle for this morning? The Peace Candle. That’s what Jesus brings: Peace.

  • Lord that word is mostly translated Master in the bible. Like when you read in 1 Timothy .. behave this way with your slaves. “Slave” is the other word here that you see translated servant. Now, in peace, Master, let your slave depart… according to your word. According to your rhema!

Rd v. 30-31 – For my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples… Just a glimpse of this baby and he knew that God’s long-awaited salvation for his people and for the world was here! Rd v 32: a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel. That is the consolation of Israel and salvation for all people.

Rd v 33: And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. I’m sure! And all of God’s people said: Aaaahhhh!!

Conclusion: Wouldn’t it be nice if it ended right there? Oh, but it doesn’t. There is more.

The truth is that life is hard. We’re not getting through this life unscathed. Sin has had its impact on us. And we see that in these next few verses. Rd v 34-35.

Application: So, what do I want you to take home with you today?

  1. You’re a Christian – act like it. Live it out: in public and in private. Sure, sometimes it can feel like legalism. But if you’re a Christian, then live out that faith. Tithe. Attend worship. Get discipled. Read your Bible daily.
  2. The Christ-filled life doesn’t mean “without struggle”. Yes, there is peace – but that peace comes within the storm that rages. That’s a part of the witness and the living out your faith in a very public way.
  3. Christ came – and he fulfilled what had been promised. Christ is coming again. Are you watching and waiting in anticipation of that event?
  4. But maybe you aren’t a Christian. Maybe life is a struggle. If Christ returned today you’d be in big trouble. Let me offer you, Christ, today.
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God Matters

**An Audio recording of this message is available in the right sidebar of this page or at www.soundcloud.com

Title: God Matters

Text: Luke 2.8-21

Introduction: We’re in the midst of our Sermon Series Christmas Songs. Our previous two songs (Zechariah & Mary) were set in the timeframe of ‘BC’ – that is, “Before Christ.” They took place before Christ was born. 1st, we meet Zechariah when he enters into the Holy Place and sees an Angel named Gabriel. Think about this: at this point in history, God has been silent for some 400 years. The Remnant of Israel came back from Exile and settled, or should I say ‘resettled,’ the land. You might recall that the Old Testament closes out with the promise of one who would come and prepare the way of the Messiah. Amos and other minor prophets foretold of a famine of God’s Word. And so there was silence… for 400 years. Next, we meet Mary. Her story a little different than Zechariah’s story, but, as we shall see, presented in similar fashion.

These two songs appear in Luke 1. In Chapter 2.1-7, we have the story of the birth of Christ. That’s our Christmas story – so we’ll hold off on telling it for another week. Our story this morning takes place at the same time as his birth or thereabouts. It is a ‘meanwhile, back at the ranch’ moment. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, angels are a bringing a birth announcement to the Shepherds.

I love Baby Announcements; show pics

That’s is how our story begins this morning – with an announcement. But it isn’t just a regular announcement. This announcement outdoes all other announcements. Sure, these announcements are cute and clever. But, man, oh, man – this announcement is pretty spectacular!

We pick up our story in Luke 2.8; rd v 8; Luke has created some spectacular scenes spread out across the country: from the Temple in Jerusalem, up North to a town in Galilee, out to some small village in the Judean Hill Country, to the little town of Bethlehem, and now out into the countryside where shepherds are keeping their watch over their flocks by night. Luke makes these stories so easy for us follow. He helps us see how each story follows:

A Similar Pattern (8-12)

exp.: This storyline follows the same pattern as the previous storylines of Zechariah and Mary:

  1. The Appearance of an Angel (rd v 9a,b)
    • Zechariah sees an Angel standing at the Altar of Incense
    • Mary sees an Angel come to her
    • The Shepherds see an angel who appears to them. They are working in the dark of night and the darkness of night flees as the angel lights up the sky, dispelling the darkness. I think there is something here of the darkness and the light. Imagery, if you will. As with the appearance of an Angel, each of our stories has…
  2. The Reaction of Fear (rd v 9c)
    • Zechariah: fear fell upon him
    • Mary was greatly troubled. In our story this morning…
    • The Shepherds are filled with great fear, or as the King James says: they were sore afraid!
  3. The Appeal to Fear Not in v 10
    • 13 – Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because God has heard your prayers!
    • 30 – Do not be afraid, Mary, because you have found favor with God!

in both of these passages, the literal translation is Fear not, which is what we see in our text this morning, rd v 10;

  • Do not be afraid, Shepherds, because I bring you good news of great Joy!
  1. The Announcement of a Birth: a son
    • Zechariah, God has heard your prayers! Elizabeth is going to bear you a son and you shall call his name John.
    • Mary, you have found favor with God and you will conceive and bear a son and you shall call his name Jesus.
    • Shepherds, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
  2. The Sign:
    • And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place.
    • And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.
    • And this will be a sign for you: You will find the baby wrapped in swaddling cloths (i.e.: strips of cloth) and lying in a manger. Here is a question: what makes this sign something special and different that it’ll be easy for them to identify?
      • There is the time frame, which is limited to ‘this day’.
      • There is the location: the city of David, which is identified for us in v 15; rd v 15; – which fits with Micah’s prophecy (Micah 5.2)

These alone will limit their search. It isn’t like Bethlehem is a big city and it isn’t like there were 25 babies born that day. But, here is where it gets good. Wrapped in strips of cloth is unusual. And even more out of the ordinary is a baby sleeping in a feeding trough. And this is what makes it a sign: This description doesn’t match that announcement!

ill.: Ok, here’s the deal. The greatest miracle of all time is happening this morning! God is coming to earth in human form as a baby boy. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is the Messiah you’ve been looking for since Genesis 3.15. Oh, and by the way, the way you’ll recognize him is that he’s going look like a pauper!

t.s.: So, first, we see how each story has a similar pattern. And 2ndly, we see how each story has…

A Song of Praise (13-14)

exp.: rd v13-14; I see this as a crescendo of what has been happening through the evening and possibly early morning hours. When you watch this in a play, it usually takes 30 minutes to an hour. I don’t think the actual story lasts nearly as long. I know what you’re thinking: like your sermons! You guys are so funny.

ill.: I need your help with this. I want you to time me. Get your timer ready. Tell me how long this lasts. Go:

And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

                14         “Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

app.: Stop. Less than a minute, right? Well, I’m thinking with full orchestration it lasted a few seconds longer! But you get the point. This announcement is a lot quicker than many probably think!

t.s.: So we see A Similar Pattern and A Song of Praise. Third, our stories then demonstrate

A Searching Out of the Possibilities (15-20)

exp.: Zechariah is stricken with silence – for months and his barren wife becomes pregnant! Mary travels to their house to take all of this in. Check out what our Shepherds do in v 15; 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” Do you see the word translated things in v 15? The Gk word is ῥῆμα; You’ve probably heard that word before. I think ῥῆμα is hard to translate in English because it doesn’t have just one word in English you can use. Luke 1.37: Because not not able with God every word (or thing or matter). The Shepherds said let’s go see this thing… The Angel said in 1.37 No thing is impossible with God. Or, get rid of the double negative and you have: All things are possible with God! This word can also be translated matter. The Shepherds said, let’s go see this matter… or with the Angel to Mary, No matter is impossible with God. If it matters to God, it’s possible!

Now you see how I got the title to my message this morning!

app.: Like Mary, Like the shepherds, this needs to be our reaction to God’s Word – God’s ῥῆμα; An angel of the Lord probably isn’t going to appear at the end of our bed in the night. Right? But he doesn’t have to! We have God’s Word right here! We need to know that every ῥῆμα of God is going to be accomplished. When God declares a ῥῆμα – a word to you through his Holy Word – you should seek these things out. I don’t like the word things, but things here would be equivalent to the word ῥῆμα. You should seek this ῥῆμα out. Seek this matter out. That’s what the shepherds do. They say: Let us go immediately to Bethlehem and behold this matter which has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.

I have a question for you to ponder: Do you ever wonder if you miss out on wonderful matters because you don’t seek out the matters God makes known to you? Or worse: Do you think God makes matters known to you and you just don’t care enough to pursue them?

Imagine with me now: The shepherds are out in their fields, watching over their sheep by night. Lo, and behold, an Angel of the Lord appears to them and gives them God’s ῥῆμα (just as he did Mary). “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

                14         “Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Picking up now in v 15: When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Wow, that was really cool. Now, where were we? Ahmed, you were saying…?”

I think that’s kind of how we are when reading God’s word – His Holy Word and we don’t pursue it! It is almost like we just want to read God’s Word to find a good devotional thought for the day. But v 15 doesn’t read that way! 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste…

Matters go just as the Lord revealed they would; So they make a plan (15), they go (16a), they find (16b), they declare it (17), the people are amazed (18), and lastly, God is glorified (20);

t.s.: Now, some of you might be saying: Hey, Hang on there! You skipped v. 19. Don’t you just love verse 19? 19 But Mary treasured up all these things (ῥῆμα), pondering them in her heart. Which brings me to the conclusion this morning…

Conclusion: The events of our lives are matters that must be treasured. Ponder that for a moment. God works in so many ways: relationships, events. God is actively working in your life at this moment. He’s working in the mundane. He’s working in the routine. He’s working in the surprises. He’s working in the sickness. He’s working in the pain. He’s working in the promotion. He’s working in the relationships. He’s working in the struggle. He’s working in the storm. Whatever is going on in your life right now – or, whatever isn’t going on right now – God is at work!

app.: and that matter right there should lead us to do what the shepherds did – glorify and praise God.

Invitation:

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Mary’s Song

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Title: Mary’s Song

Text: Luke 1.26-56; 2.19, 35

Introduction: Our Story today picks up in the middle of last week’s story. We see two connections to the greater storyline as we pick up in 1.26; rd 1.26a: In the sixth month the angel Gabriel…; 1st, there is the connection with the time reference – 6th month. Back in v 24, we’re told that Elizabeth has kept her pregnancy quiet for 5 months. Now, it is a month further into that pregnancy. And we’ll see another reference when we get down to v 36, Gabriel tells Mary about her cousin Elizabeth. 2nd, we have the connection with the angel Gabriel, who declared to us back in v19 that he stands in the presence of God. Lit.: in his eyes.

So, with this connection, we’re to understand that these stories are related – really, entwined.

As we continue with this verse, we see a foundation for the whole story. Rd 1.26b; Gabriel was sent from God. This word sent in the Gk is the verb form of the word for which we get for our word Apostle (ἀποστέλλω). It means commissioned. Gabriel has been commissioned by God for this very special task.

Continue in v 26c-27: Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. Let’s take a moment to look more at his mission

Gabriel: Commissioned of God

  • His Mission – sent from God with a very specific task; Mary is a popular name, but this Mary is a virgin. She is also engaged – that is, she’s in the middle of her courtship with a specific man, Joseph. This Joseph happens to be in the lineage of King David. The writer here, telling us this story is being very specific in the details.
  • His Message – you will have a son
    • Greetings: Lit.: Rejoice!14; O favored one, it is interesting to note that Gabriel said the same thing to Daniel in Daniel 9.23; The Lord is with you! Read v 29; Usually, when an angel shows up, you can’t help but wonder what it might all be about. But Gabriel assures her; rd v 30; I think v 30 is all a part of his message. But, to this point his message has been non-prophetic, so to speak. But that is about to change.
    • The Prophecy of the Messiah: Let’s continue; rd v 31-33; The Angel is pretty straightforward here: you’re going to conceive a baby boy in your womb and you’ll give birth to him – and when you do, his name is called Jesus. Furthermore, he will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. AND, the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David. AND, he will reign over the house of Jacob – forever – there will be no end to his kingdom.

Now, Mary is thinking in the present. I wonder if she has really grasped all of this forever, and no end bit of the prophecy. Look at what she asks: rd v 34; 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Lit.: I do not know a man. “Know” as in the biblical way of know – Adam knew Eve and she conceived… Well, she is engaged, but that part of the relationship hasn’t been consummated, yet. Physically, this would be impossible.

Why?

Some people have wondered why Zechariah got in so much trouble over his question and Mary appears to not get into trouble for asking her question. Let me show you. It has to do with two different words know and be:

  • When you read Zechariah’s question in v 18, it is apparent that he wanted to ‘know’ this before he would believe, demonstrating his disbelief.
  • Mary asks how this will “be”, demonstrating she believed it would be, she just didn’t understand how.
  • Her question is more about the process and how it will all come about. Zechariah doesn’t think it will come about and wants some concrete answers before he’ll go there.
  • Added to this, the angel tells us the Zechariah didn’t believe in v 20; Her belief is declared down in v 45, but it is also expressed in what she says and what she does in v 38-39.

So Gabriel spells things out for her:

  1. By way of the Holy Spirit, the power of the Most High God (God the Father) will envelop her; cf.: Luke 9.34; that’s how it will happen; 2ndly, rd v 35b;
  2. Ok, I like the NASB’s translation of this next phrasing: and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you – for this reason, because of this, the holy begotten (Child) will be called the Son of God;

Ok, so that is a full explanation for her, but Gabriel offers more – he gives her a sign that God is already at work in all of this; rd v 36-37; So, look at Elizabeth.

  1. Elizabeth is a Sign for Mary – Elizabeth is now in her 6th month! Here is a barren woman – that is a woman who was never able to have a baby. Added to this physical impossibility is her age – she is already beyond childbearing years. But God has taken the impossible and proven that nothing is impossible for him. But check out Mary’s Humility: rd v 38

Mary: A Demonstration of FaithHere we see Mary’s faith expressed

  • Her Faith Expressed: 1st, through her words. 2nd, through her actions.
    • First, Mary declares her faith in God by humbly acknowledging that she is the Lord’s slave. He is God and she wants to serve Him in whatever capacity He chooses.

Can I just say that this blows my mind? First, it blows my mind because she is so young but responds with such maturity. But, 2ndly, this will humiliate her. The consequences of what God will do in and through her life will make her the lowest in her society. She’ll be made fun of, if not worse – persecuted, mistreated, or even sentenced to death by stoning.

Question – before we move to that 2nd expression: Are you willing to be considered a fool in order that you might be obedient to your Lord and Master? The truth is, you are a fool to that which you serve! Is it cigarettes? Alcohol? Food? Social Media? People? Pornography? In High School, I saw a man with a ‘sandwich’ billboard that he was wearing. On one side it read: I’m a fool for Christ. On the other side, it read: Whose fool are you?

Mary will be considered a fool. She is going to make Joseph look so bad. She’ll embarrass her parents. She now faces unknown hardship because of her faithfulness to God. She’s a fool for Christ. Whose fool are you?

  • Second, she packs up to go and see this miracle of God – a pregnant Elizabeth. Verse 39 ties these next so many verses with the overall storyline, just as we saw connections in v 26. In those days; rd v 5; rd v 24; So, we’re still in this same storyline; we’ll see it again in 2.1; What happened in that 6th month?
  • Her Faith Experienced: rd v 40-41; So, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit, as was Zechariah, whom we looked at last week. And then Elizabeth breaks out in song. Now, I’ve not listed this as one of my songs for the sermon series – and, the ESV doesn’t print it like a song, but my Greek text does! Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! Rd v 43; this is a sign of humility; rd v 44; We spoke of this last week, that an unborn John leaps in the womb at Mary’s hello! And look at this blessing on Mary rd v 45: She is blessed because she has believed. Just the fact that she has run off to see Elizabeth is pretty powerful – it is a demonstration of her belief.

And so Mary breaks out in song: Magnificat; rd v 46-55;

I don’t know that this will mean much to you, but this song is broken into four stanzas with four lines each. There are two units with two stanzas in each unit. Each unit has the focus of the Mercy of God. It is composed with organization to it. God has shown mercy to Mary and blessed her. And not only that, but God shows mercy to those who fear him. And in sending Jesus… God has shown Mercy through keeping his covenant with Israel.

Mary magnifies the Lord by 1. declaring who he is (Lord, God, Savior, holy; v 46-7) and 2. by declaring what he has done (for her: v 48-9; for those who fear him: v 50; kept his promises: v 51-5).

That is probably what all songs should do, isn’t it? Magnify the Lord? Because, if you remember the way I began this message, I pointed out that God is the one who started all of this. It really is all about him. And so Mary brings us full-circle to God again.

Mary then, returned home about the time of John’s birth: rd v 56

Conclusion: You know the ‘rest of the story’, as Joseph was greatly distressed over her pregnancy. And, being a godly man…being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

 23         “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

There are two other passages that highlight Mary’s part in this story. The first is found down in Luke 2.19. After the Shepherds came and found the baby lying in a manger – they left and shared their testimony of all they had heard and seen. And the Scripture says: 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. This word pondering is a word that means to cast it all together: συμβάλλω. I’ll bet that is a common theme among mothers.

This would be a wonderful ending if this were it for Mary, but as we’ll see in a couple of weeks, Simeon has something to say to her. Rd v 34-35; And a sword will pierce through your own soul also.

She pondered all that she had experienced concerning her son in her heart. A sword will pierce through her soul. I’m sure there is more here than we’ve covered concerning her heart and soul. But what I want you to see is that this story isn’t all gumballs and roses. This prophecy declares pains for her in the future. It is a reminder to us who know the whole story just why Jesus came to earth. He came to die for the sins of mankind. He was born to die for us.

And so God sent his Son to earth to die for our sins – and in return he calls for commitment from us. Mary called him her God and her savior. Would you do the same?

Invitation:

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Zechariah’s Song

**An Audio recording of this message is available in the right sidebar of this page or at www.soundcloud.com

Title: Zechariah’s Song

Text: Luke 1.5-25; 57-79

Introduction: I love Christmas. I really do. I haven’t always loved Christmas – for many reasons of which I will not unload at this point. But, that has changed for me. And I’ll credit Lisa for the change. The Challenge for the pastor at Christmas is presenting something new from the same stories you’ve heard about your whole life. But here is the problem. The story is the same. So, who does a pastor tell the same stories year after year without losing that freshness? The answer I find is this: simply retelling the story.

Lisa and I are reading “The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings for Advent” by John Piper. This activity is just one example of what Lisa has done in building traditions for us that means so much to me. As we began the readings, Piper made a statement in the preface of his book and I wanted to share his quote with you as I begin this new Sermon Series for Christmas: The Songs of Christmas: Brand-new truths are probably not truths. What we need are reminders about the greatness of the old truths. We need someone to say an old truth in a fresh way. Or sometimes, just to say it.

That’s my goal this season: to present the story of Christmas with freshness and excitement by simply retelling the story. The idea of the Christmas songs came from Duffey. I don’t want you to think I came up with this myself. When we began looking at last year’s Christmas sermon series (which I had already planned out), Duffey shared with me that his pastor at his previous church had preached on the songs of Christmas. I already had my sermon series planned and so that is what we presented. But, I wanted to look closer at this idea of Christmas Songs from the Bible. I thought it was a great idea. And what we start today is the culmination of that journey.

Our songs from the book of Luke will follow our Advent Candles:

  • Zechariah’s Song (which is really the 2nd song, but this story begins our journey, so we’ll start with it)
  • Mary’s Song
  • The Angels’ Song
  • Simeon’s Song
  • Anna’s Song (which isn’t recorded)

Now, if you follow the text through Luke, you’ll note that Mary’s song actually appears before Zechariah’s; however, Zechariah’s story is in the text first, because John, the Baptizer was born about 6 months before Jesus. So, that is why I’ve chosen his story first.

The text itself is broken into three different sections, with Mary’s story in the middle. Zechariah’s song is born out of an experience with

  • His Service
  • His Suffering
  • His Son

Let’s look first at his Service

I.     Zechariah’s Service (5-20)

exp.: rd v5-8 is the introduction to this couple; in v 8-10, we see how he comes into his service; rd v 8-10; you know this is special because he was twice chosen! First, he was chosen from his division and 2nd, he was chosen to enter into the Holy Place during his service. It is during this routine service that an angel from the Lord appears to him and interrupts his service.

Let me give you a great application before we even dig deeper into this experience: You should be praying for something like this in your life – that God will interrupt you in the midst of your service to him. Service can become routine. You learn what you’re supposed to do. You practice what you’ve learned as you do it and before you know it, there is no passion – there is no enthusiasm. You’re just simply walking through the motions of your service to the Most High God.

Oh, God, please interrupt my service! Let me have a fresh encounter with you.

This interruption brings a message – Gabriel’s message: rd v 11-13: Your prayer has been answered; Elizabeth will have a son and you will call his name John. Now he says, let me tell you a little bit about this son of yours, John.

  • John’s impact (the impact he will have): rd v 14
    • You will have joy and gladness!
    • Many will rejoice at his birth (they do in v 58)
  • John’s life (what his life will be like): rd v 15
    • He will be great (no one will be considered greater according to Jesus in Luke 7.28: I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John).
    • He will be filled with the Holy Spirit
  • John’s ministry (the work he will accomplish): rd v 16-17
    • Turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.
    • Be accomplished in the spirit and power of Elijah (Malachi)
    • Turn the hearts of the fathers to the children
    • Turn the disobedient to the wisdom of the just
    • And make ready for the Lord a people prepared.

exp.: there it is, all spelled out for you. This is all pretty miraculous. The fact that there is an angel here is pretty miraculous. There is only one problem: Zechariah doesn’t believe him; this is evident from his response; rd v 18; How shall I know this is a basic declaration of unbelief. What you’re saying is pretty unbelievable. So, give me a sign. Show me something that will let me know. He wants to know because, from the physical side of life, things look pretty impossible. First, he’s an old man and 2nd, his wife is advanced in years. Evidently, that means she is past the childbearing years.

app.: Here is another great application for us. Zechariah is asking for signs because he doesn’t believe. So: be very careful what you ask God for! Especially when you’re asking God to do something because you don’t believe him. Disbelief is sin. Hebrews 11.6 – for without faith it is impossible to please God

I’m not talking about doubt or confusion or struggle. I’m talking about an unbelieving heart. Faithlessness. So, the angel sets him straight. First, he gives Zechariah his name: I am Gabriel. Zechariah should have thought of the book of Daniel. Gabriel appears twice in that book. Any priest worth is weight in drachmas should know this. Gabriel is connected with the Messiah. Then, added to the weight of his name is his position (19): I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. V 20 communicates his unbelief to us: rd v 20; silent and unable to speak because you did not believe.

t.s.: And that is just what happens; which brings me to the second experience in this story:

II.    Zechariah’s Suffering (21-66)

exp.: rd v 21; can I add another application for us from this story? Our sin affects others around us. That is no new truth – to mention Piper again. But it is what happens here. He’s delayed and so they are left wondering what is up. This is odd to the people because this is a daily routine. They’ve experienced this before, many times. The priest goes in and does his thing and then he comes out. But this time he is delayed. So they’re left standing out there. 2ndly, when he does come out. He can’t speak. When I first thought of this 2nd point, I thought I should call it Zechariah’s Silence. But after working on it through the week, I think it is more than just living in a silent world. There has to be frustration and struggle. And, that is just what we see in the next v; rd v 22; He wants to tell them, but he can’t; rd v 23; and so he silently heads home. Rd v 24 – it’s all coming true.

Now the next so many verses turn our attention to Mary. I don’t want to look at her story just yet – we’ll do that next week. For now, let’s skip down to v 39 and resume our story with Zechariah; Gabriel has told Mary that she is going to have a baby. And, added to this joy – if I can call it that – her much older cousin, Elizabeth, is going to have a baby, too. Indeed, she’s already 6 months pregnant (v 36). So Mary goes to see Elizabeth. We pick up in v 39; rd 39-41; There is something supernatural going on here; I’ve never experienced this myself, but I’m sure there are mamas all over this worship center who could try to describe for us men what it is like to have a baby leap in the womb. But that is what makes this story so real to us. We read and we know this experience – either as a woman who has had a baby or a man who has watched his wife’s stomach move.

app.: Something wonderful happens all in this moment – but Zechariah isn’t a part of it. He misses out: the baby leaps and the Holy Spirit of God fills Elizabeth and she sings her own song. Rd 41b-45; Now, I wonder if this adds to Zechariah’s suffering – you know, because he’s not a part of this celebration. You see, he isn’t involved in this part of the story. Did he just sit by and watch, unable to say anything? Sometimes, when women get together, that is a byproduct of their getting together (men aren’t included). Sometimes, men just aren’t welcome. And that’s ok. But maybe, just maybe, he didn’t participate because he couldn’t. He could only look on from the outside. He was left alone with his thoughts.

t.s.: Well, the day comes for his wife to give birth to a son and we pick up down in v 57…

III.   Zechariah’s Son (57-79)

exp.: rd 57-58; here is the fulfillment from the prophecy in v 14; let’s keep reading; rd v 59-63; John, that isn’t a family name. Isn’t his good to know that even back then people criticized what you were naming your baby! John? John ain’t no family name. Why would you pick John? Let’s intervene and help this poor kid out before his mama names him something funny. Don’t you just love v 62 – They made signs to the father. Like, because he’s mute, he’s also deaf! Can you see them talking louder and making gestures? But he asked for an etch-a-sketch! And he wrote – John is his name. Boom! Rd v 64 And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God! The moment he wrote out that John was to be called John, he was expressing his belief in what the Angel said. Boy, here is another moment where we can identify a Truth – not a new truth mind you – just a reminder: Faith is action. Zechariah expresses his faith in writing out on the tablet. And a song was born! You see it down in v 67 and following: Zechariah, filled with the Holy Spirit – as was Elizabeth, remember? Zechariah filled with the Holy Spirit praised God! rd v 68-75

app.: That’s Zechariah’s song – born out of his service to the Lord as his priest, born out of the suffering he experienced in silence over the months, and born out of his experience in watching God do just what he said he would do – give him a son.

Conclusion: And his son? His son is going to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah. Rd 75-79

We often think of the Christmas stories from a very positive perspective – and rightfully so. But I wonder if we seriously take to heart that these stories are real life. Each story is taken in a positive light and often times can feel more like a fairy tale than practical history. I say ‘practical’ because these stories are given for us. Zechariah’s Song was born out of his real-life experience. Born out of his practical service to the Lord through his work and service in the Temple. Do you serve the Lord in and through your local church? There is something here for you!

Zechariah’s Song was born out of his suffering: a real, physical ailment. He couldn’t speak! His communication was stifled.

ill.: This week I was visiting with a member in his hospital room. The nurse asked him if he was in pain. He said: I am always in pain. This man lives with chronic pain. After 101 years, his body aches constantly. Pray for Tom. What about you? Are you living with pain or sickness or some other type of struggle? This story has something here for you, too!

Zechariah’s Song was born out of God’s work in his life. Zechariah saw with his own eyes how God fulfilled his promises. There is this tie or bridge from Daniel to here through the angel, Gabriel. What about you? Do you have an unbelieving heart toward the things of God? Are you so earthly minded that you struggle with how God is going to accomplish his work because physically it just all appears impossible? Logistically, you can’t map it out? Maybe you’re in the midst of it all? Zechariah didn’t believe it when it was happening to him. Will you be found full of faith when God moves in your life in an impossible way?

Application: review – let me challenge you to:

  1. Pray for God to interrupt your routine and make things fresh!
  2. Pray that God will guide your prayers. You don’t want to ask for foolish things. And you don’t want to have a disbelieving heart. Here is a simple practice: pray the Bible. Think about it – everything in this text is already somewhere else in God’s Word.
  3. Pray for God to keep you in his will. Your disobedience has an impact on the lives around you. For John, it also kept him on of some pretty cool happenings as God was fulfilling his purpose in Elizabeth and Mary’s lives. Pray for a strong faith.

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Filed under Luke, Scripture, Sermon