What did you say? - Luke 1:5-25
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What did you say?
One of the obvious features of the Bible stories that we tend to read or have read to us at this time of year is that they are full of spectacular events. We hear of angelic visitations. We listen to a choir of angels singing the first Christmas number one. We read of messages from God announced in dreams. We gaze at a star guiding the Magi more accurately than any GPS system available today. We sit beside a teenager as she is told that she will give birth to the Son of God, who will be the Saviour of the World. The Christmas stories are full of spectacular events. And yet they are also full of very ordinary people. And my task this morning is to show you two of these individuals. A man called Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth.
The Passionate Believers (Vs 5-7)
We meet them in vs 5-7. And what we discover in these verses is that they were passionate believers.
Look at vs 5. Read vs 5-7. What are we told about them?
- Zechariah was a priest, and he was in the priestly division of Abijah. 18,000 priests at that time. 24 divisions. They served at the temple on a rota basis. The expectation was each division would serve twice a year for a week at a time.
- Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. This doesn’t mean they never sinned. Only Jesus has been in this unique category. But it does mean they were passionately pursuing obedience. It also means that when they sinned they passionately pursued God’s means of forgiveness.
- They didn’t have any children. Not because God was punishing them for some particular sin. We’ve already been told they were blameless. This was what God permitted them to experience.
Are you ever tempted to think that some misfortune in your life is a consequence of some particular sin you have committed? Don’t!
The Promised Baby (Vs 8-20)
This is the section that tells us that on a very ordinary day, Zechariah’s life took a dramatic turn.
Look at vs 8. This is was a once in a life time opportunity. And I’m sure he would be very excited to tell this news to Elizabeth when he got home! He didn’t have a mobile phone.
But his day was going to get even more dramatic. Look at vs 11. Read vs 11-12.
Angels don’t appear on ever page of the bible. But they do appear on some. And that’s okay. I have no problem with. And neither with you as long as
you allow the Bible to shape your view of reality and not allow your opinions to determine what you think is possible.
An angel appeared to Zechariah and told him the most wonderful news. Look at vs 13.
What prayer had been answered? Some say it was the prayer just offered with the incense. That is often symbolic of prayer in the Bible. Perhaps a prayer for the intervention of God to rescue his people from their horrific plight. Now of course Zechariah’s son was certainly going to be involved in that gracious event. But I think the prayer in question was one of his past personal prayers for a child. There is no indication that he was still praying it. God had heard it in the past and hadn’t said yes or no at the time. He had said, Not yet’. Although Zechariah probably thought he had said no. But he still served God anyway. What a lesson for us! However, now God was saying yes.
What kind of hopes and dreams do parents have for their children? Before they are born? Healthy? Hair colour? What they will do when they grow up? Who they might marry? Will they be famous? Will they be useful? Will they follow Jesus?
Zechariah didn’t have time to form his own dreams because straight away the angel told him what his son would be like. Look at verse 14. Read vs 14.
- He would bring joy to his dad.
- He would also being joy to many.
Why (for both)? To find the answer we need to read on. Read vs 15-17.
He will bring people to know God, the true source of joy.
How? He pointed people to Jesus. Do you see the connection? The coming Lord is the one we call Jesus.
Do you want to be a joy to others? How? Tell them about Jesus. This doesn’t mean that everyone will be happy with you. But there will be some who will be eternally glad of your existence because you pointed them towards the joyful God.
Is that how you see what you are doing when you invite people to church or to a course or give away a book or speak to them about Jesus?
How did Zechariah respond to this news? We are given the honest truth in vs 18. Read vs 18.
Does he half believe it? Does he believe it but just wants some explanation? Or does he flat out not believe it can happen?
The next few verses reveal everything. Read vs 19-21.
What I find fascinating is that Zechariah has already been described as someone who was passionate about doing what God says. So it’s obvious that this act of unbelief was not the typical response in his life. However, even in the life of a passionate believer, unbelief was still present on occasions.
I don’t want this to excuse you but I do want it to encourage you. It is a feature of a believer’s life. Moments of unbelief are not a sign that you are an unbeliever full stop. They are signs that you have not yet been fully glorified to be like the Lord Jesus Christ.
The promise of this baby was not dependent on Zechariah’s response. Zechariah’s response simply determined his experience for the next few months.
Let’s discover what happened next.
The praiseworthy beginning (Vs 21-25)
Read vs 23-25.
She became pregnant in the normal way. Unlike Mary. So although significant, John is not on the same level as Jesus.
But still this is a praiseworthy beginning because it is God’s grace that achieved this most wonderful outcome.
Christmas presents us with the grace of God. Not just that he looked down but that he came down.
May your Christmas be marked by praise. It will be if you recognise the grace of God.
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