MAIN TEXT: Luke 1: 5-25
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit,even from his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
Jesus is coming! Jesus Christ has come and will come again. This is the hope of the church whom He purchased with His blood. His coming is the eager expectation and desire of His followers. His first advent is the greatest act of love that the world has ever experienced.
This weekend, the Christian calendar tells us that we are on the second of the four weekends of Advent. Advent, formed from the Latin word means “coming” or “arrival”, is about the coming of Christ. Advent is the traditional celebration of the first advent of Jesus and the anxious awaiting of His second. The season is a time for remembering and rejoicing, watching and waiting, and a time to reflect upon the promises of God and to anticipate the fulfillment of those promises with patience, prayer and preparedness.
God’s people are called to be prepared. Last week we learned that Malachi called God’s people to be prepared for the fulfillment of God’s promises. He foretold of a forerunner to Christ that would prepare the way for the Messiah. Over 400 years later, Malachi’s prophecy was realized in our text.
Our text today tells the story of the birth of John the Baptist. John the Baptist would play a massive role in paving the way for Jesus. His parents, Zechariah (a Jewish priest) and Elizabeth (also a daughter of a priest) experienced the love of God in a powerful way. Zechariah and Elizabeth were great examples of what it looks like to be prepared. They were faithful, surrendered, devoted, and sincere.
Prepared and faithful even when it doesn’t seem to pay
Luke 1:5-7 of our text tells us that it wasn’t easy to be alive in the days of Herod. This is the world that Jesus was born into. Zechariah and Elizabeth were seriously committed to the Lord. They were “righteous before God, walking blamelessly”. They had a heartache – a hearts cry – there was a huge hole in their heart…they had no children. She was infertile and they were now too old. They no doubt felt negative emotions. A repeated prayer had gone unanswered.
Prepared and faithful through serving
Luke 1:8-10 shows us that Zechariah and Elizabeth didn’t put serving God on hold in spite of their disappointment. Zechariah gets the very rare privilege as one of 8,000 priests to perform the twice-daily routine of changing and burning incense in the Temple. This was a huge day in his life. In the midst of his needs, his unanswered prayers, his weak moments Zechariah is working for the Lord – being faithful. When you are serving God faithfully and have unanswered prayers – you can begin to think that there is no reward for your efforts.
Prepared and faithful for the long-haul
It is one thing to wait for a promise for a day or even a week or a month. But it is another thing to wait for years! You talk to God and things still do not change. Zechariah and Elizabeth were both advanced in years (verses 7 & 18). We have a lot to look forward to even when we are waiting. Regardless of your age or years of one unanswered prayer – God still has a plan for you.
How do we become a people that are constantly prepared?
Welcome and recognize God’s presence
Luke 1:11-13 sheds light on Zechariah’s experience in the Temple. An angel appeared to him. He was troubled and full of fear. There is a natural human response when we are faced with the reality of God’s holiness and our sinfulness. Today, the Holy Spirit reveals His presence to us. In spite of this initial response, Zechariah is about to experience the character of God – especially His loving-kindness. Psalm 105:4 states: “Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!”
Acts 3:19-20 indicates that the presence of the Lord refreshes when we repent and turn to Him.
Realize God’s comfort and provision
Luke 1:13-14 shows God’s desire to comfort His people. Zechariah is told, “don’t fear – your prayer has been heard – you will have a son – you will be filled with great joy and gladness”. God showed His love and provided! Luke 1:15-17 details the life of this promised son. They are to call him John. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord – Jesus. Do you want to be assured of God’s love? Realize it by detailing how God has provided for you in the past.
Embrace God’s grace
The name John meant, “the Lord has been gracious”. If you are longing and hoping for an answer that hasn’t come, remember the love of God. God has been gracious. Zechariah did not embrace what God was doing for him (Luke 1:18-20). He didn’t embrace the Lord’s graciousness. He paid a price for it by not being able to speak until the baby was born. Nine months of being speechless during the most exciting time of his life.
Your ability to experience love this Christmas is directly related to your willingness to embrace God’s graciousness. Don’t doubt. Don’t despair. Don’t forget His grace in your life every day!
Luke 1:57-64 tells of the promise fulfilled for Zechariah and Elizabeth. This time Zechariah got it right. He named the baby John, “The Lord has been gracious”.
Are you feeling unloved? Don’t fall into the temptation of trying to fill your heartache with material things that won’t satisfy. Jesus – Emmanuel, God with us, revealed in us, has been given. God’s greatest gift of love is Jesus! The Lord has come!
(1 John 4:9-12) We need to say with our lips and mean it with our heart,
“The Lord is good! He has been gracious to me.”
NEXT WEEK'S PASSAGE: LUKE 1: 26-38
APPLY TO LIFE
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing as you open God’s Word together.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Read: LUKE 1: 5-25
What do you imagine it must have been like to be Zechariah and realize that your son was the one spoken of by the prophet Malachi?
When you think of faithfulness, what people come to mind? Why?
As you think of being prepared, share a story that depicts a moment when you were either well-prepared or ill-prepared.
How do we prepare for the second coming of Jesus?