LUKE 1: 68-79
DECEMBER 10, 2000
INTRODUCTION: In 1994, two Americans answered an invitation for the Russian Department of Education to teach morals and ethics (based on biblical principles) in the public schools. They were invited to teach at prisons, businesses, the fire and police departments and a large orphanage. About 100 boys and girls who had been abandoned, abused, and left in the care of a government-run program were in the orphanage. They related the following story in their own words: It was nearing the holiday season, 1994, time for our orphans to hear, for the first time, the traditional story of Christmas. We told them about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem. Finding no room in the inn, the couple went to a stable, where the baby Jesus was born and placed in a manger. Throughout the story, the children and orphanage staff sat in amazement as they listened. Some sat on the edges of their stools, trying to grasp every word. Completing the story, we gave the children three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manger. Each child was given a small paper square, cut from yellow napkins I had brought with me. (No colored paper was available in the city.)
Following instructions, the children tore the paper and carefully laid strips in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel, cut from a worn-out nightgown an American lady was throwing away as she left Russia, were uses for the baby’s blanket. A doll-like baby was cut from tan felt we had brought from the US. The orphans were busy assembling their manger as I walked among them to see if they needed any help.
All went well until I got to one table where little Misha sat – he looked to be about 6 years old and had finished his project. As I looked at the little boy’s manger, I was startled to see not one, but two babies in the manger. Quickly, I called for the translator to ask the lad why there were tow babies in the manger. Crossing his arms in front of him and looking at this completed manger scene, the child began to repeat the story very seriously.
For such a young boy, who had only heard the Christmas story once, he related the happenings accurately, until he came to the part where Mary put the baby Jesus in the manger. Then Misha started to ad-lib. He made up his won ending to the story as he said, “And when Maria laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told him I had no mamma and I have no papa, so I don’t have any place to stay. Then Jesus told me I could stay with him. But I told him I couldn’t, because I didn’t have a gift to give him like everybody else did. But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift. I thought maybe if I kept him warm, that would be a good gift. So I asked Jesus, “If I keep you warm, will that be a good enough gift?” And Jesus told me, “If you keep me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave me.” So I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and he told me I could stay with him – for always.”
As little Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. The little orphan had found someone who would never abandon nor abuse him, someone who would stay with him – FOR ALWAYS.
TRANSITION THOUGHT: Our text this day teaches us the true meaning of Christmas. Just like the reality Misha found in hearing the Christmas Story, Zechariah “Erupted” into praise as God allowed him to see the reality of the soon coming Messiah and the role that his own family would be admitted to play in the New Covenant God was about to unfold before HIS people. Hear now what Christmas, the coming of the Christ Child meant to Zechariah and what he saw it to mean to all humanity.
THESIS SENTENCE: Christmas is the reality of God’s plan for salvation for all humanity.
FOR ZECHARIAH AND ALL HUMANITY,
I. CHRISTMAS IS THE REALITY OF GOD’S LIGHT SHINING INTO OUR DARKNESS. (VV. 79A)
A. This present darkness.
1.The days into which Jesus was born were days of moral degeneration and depravity.
2. The Jewish religion had degenerated until it was nothing more that a religion of formalism and legalism.
3. There was no spiritual vitality. It was a dark day spiritually when Jesus came into the world.
B. Darkness a past and present reality for humanity.
1. Isaiah 9:2 “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
2. John 3:19 “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”
3. Things haven’t changed much! Have the days been any darker. I children are killed at school. Mother kill their babies daily and call it choice. Pray is the only four letter word you had better not say at school. Marital faithfulness is a thing of the past. Marriage has replaced dating and divorce is no big deal. Worshiping God is on the bottom of the agenda for the week, not the top.
4. But, we have more light than ever. Billy Graham preaches to millions of viewers multiple times a year. Christian books stores are on every corner. 3 out of 30 cable channels carries various Christian programing. There is a church on every corner. BUT, humanity loves darkness MORE than the light.
C. The good news is that since Jesus has come, not all are trapped in the darkness. There is a way out and it leads to an “Eruption.”
1. Some have found their way to the light.
2. I Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” [vs. 10 “Once you were not a people…] 3. II Corinthians 4:6 “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
D. The great news is that this very day, Jesus come bringing his light into our lives. We don’t have to stumble in the darkness any longer. We can walk in the light of life. Jesus came to bring light to the world!
CHRISTMAS IS THE REALITY OF GOD’S LIGHT SHINING INTO DARKNESS. FOR ZECHARIAH AND US…
II. CHRISTMAS IS THE REALITY OF GOD’S LIFE OVERCOMING DEATH (VV. 79B)
AN ASIDE TO THE TEXT:
A. OUT OF SILENCE COMES PRAISE FOR REDEMPTION
1. Zechariah has not been able to speak (and probably hear) for nine months. What is the first words to come from Zechariah: Words of redemption.
2. Zechariah’s understanding of redemption was two fold. First, it would not have been the Spiritual only aspect of the Apostle Paul’s writings.
3. Redemption was deliverance from one’s enemies.
4. “The Shadow of death Mentioned in verse 79 would have been in reference to the life lived under the rule of a foreign power. More specifically, it would have been in reference to the shame and humiliation of not being a nation unto it self.
5. For Zechariah, Redemption was “Salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us (vv. 71)” and “to rescue us from the hand of our enemies (vv. 74).”
6. The key to this first thought is that he saw the Messiah as the “horn of Salvation (vv. 69).” This was a reference to an Old Testament thought of a horn being a weapon of battle not a musical instrument. It is also a reference to the fact that God will defeat the enemies of His people. THE KEY HERE IS MILITARY MIGHT OR MORE SPECIFICALLY GODLY MIGHT THAT ROUTS THE ENEMY OF ISRAEL.
B. Service in Holiness is the outflow of Redemption
1. Zechariah’s second understanding of being delivered from the “Shadow of death (VV. 79) was being able to serve God “WITHOUT FEAR (VV. 74)”, AND “IN HOLINESS AND RIGHTEOUSNESS BEFORE HIM ALL OUR DAYS (VV. 75).”
2. The Contrast here is that not to be able to serve God is as good as Death! 3. Zechariah knew that living under the rule of another nation hindered true allegiance and worship of the living God.
C. Redemption is also the God’s remembrance of “His holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham (vv. 72-73).”
1. Redemption from the “shadow of death” was being the in favor of God once more. 2. For 400 year God had not spoken to His People. Israel eagerly awaited a word of Hope from Him and Zechariah was full of it!
3. God would renew His covenant with His people and they would EXPERIENCE LIFE ONCE MORE!
D. The twenty-third Psalm has a line in it which states, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me (vv. 4).”
E. Hebrews 9:27 explains to us that, “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” Death is inevitable, but it isn’t the end.
F. The Bible tells us here that Jesus came to bring His light into the very shadow of Death [KEY VERSE 79B]. Reality is, no one is promised tomorrow or the next moment.
G. If God were to take you this very second, what would the record show. Are you living a life of sin, or are you walking in the light of His, in complete obedience? Have you accepted Jesus as your savior? Have you read, listened to, or seen the movie of, the book entitled Left Behind?
CHRISTMAS IS THE REALITY OF GOD’S LIGHT SHINING INTO DARKNESS, CHRISTMAS IS THE REALITY OF GOD’S LIFE OVERCOMING DEATH,
III. CHRISTMAS IS THE REALITY OF GOD’S GUIDENCE OVERCOMING DESPAIR (VV. 79C)
A. None of us know how to walk for God as we should! Left to ourselves and our won devices, we merely tend to wander farther away from God.
1. Isaiah 53:6 “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his won way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
2. Proverbs 16:25 “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”
3. Israel had lost its direction. The cause was sin and a desire to serve self over God. God had punished, but fulfilling His promise to the prophets, He would forgive their sin and offer His salvation as a free gift of His mercy and stead fast love. He would not always be angry with His people.
B. Jesus came to give us light and that light was a light of guidance.
1. The 23rd Psalm puts it this way, “He leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake (vv. 2b and 3). 2. Our text says that he came “to guide our feet into the path of Peace (vv. 79c). 3. Just what was this peace? Was it peace with our enemies? Surely it was victory over our enemies (vv. 68-75).
C. Jesus came to guide us into peace with God.
1. Zechariah not only saw the work the Messiah would do, but he saw the reality of the role his own son would play concerning our “Redemption.”
2. His son would prepare us to meet the Messiah and thus segue us into the guidance of the Messiah.
3. “To give His people the knowledge of salvation throught the forgiveness of their sins (77).”
4. Real peace comes from the “Tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven (vv. 78).”
5. Peace with God is the forgiveness of our Sins!!!!!!!
6. It is REDEMPTION OVER OUR ENEMY!
7. It is THE POWER TO SERVE GOD IN HOLINESS AND RIGHTEIOUSNESS.
8. It is the deliverance from darkness and death!
ISAIAH PUT IT THIS WAY: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (9:6).”
ILLUSTRATION: Matt Poursaba sent an e-mail detailing this scene. Seems a man was invited to a friend’s house for dinner. He arrived, and they sat down to eat, and he noticed that every time his host spoke to his wife, or asked for something, he preceded his request by calling his wife, “My Love,” “Darling,” “Sweetheart,” and other loving names. When the wife left the room for a moment, the man looked to his friend and said, “That’s really nice – After all the years you’ve been married to keep saying those little pet names.”
The host leaned over close to his guest and whispered, “Well, to tell you the truth… I’ve forgotten her name.”
CONCLUSION: Christmas is about remembering what God has done through Christ. I don’t know where this day finds you in your Spiritual journey. Maybe you are still in Darkness, He came to shed light on your path. Maybe you are in the hands of death, He came to set you free to live by His life. Maybe you aren’t experiencing any peace, He came as the prince of peace to fill your heart with Peace. Whatever you need Him to do, He came for you and if you allow Him, He will Show you the Real meaning of Christmas!