Summary: This sermon deals with 3 questions asked by different people who were part of the Christmas story, and what it can mean to us today.
3 VITAL QUESTIONS AT CHRISTMAS TIME
INTRODUCTION - When I was much younger, there was a song that used to play on the Radio that I liked very much. It was titled ‘There are more questions that answers’ sung by Reggae singer Johnny Nash. The song asked a few questions like ‘what is life?’, ‘how do we live?’, ‘what should we take’ and ‘how much should we give?’
Questions are very much a part of life and asking questions can help us increase our knowledge. There are many types of questions we ask. For instance, some of you may be asking some very personal questions right now, like, ‘Will I get a salary bonus this year?’, ‘How much will it be?’, ‘will my medical tests come out all right?’ (I had first-hand experience of this the past week as my wife and 2 sons were down with viral fever with one of my sons having to be hospitalized. There was tension with each blood report of his that came in, due to the threat of dengue fever). Similarly, a young person may be asking ‘should I propose to her before Christmas?’, others may be asking ‘wonder what Christmas will be like this year?’ and in Sri Lanka, many parents are possibly asking right now, ‘how will my child fare at the exam?’ (The most important exam for students in Sri Lanka is held in December). Some of you reading this may even be asking, ‘Is it worth my time going through this sermon?’!!!
Another extremely humorous song from days gone by comes to my mind right now. It was titled, ‘Foolish Questions’. Don’t we humans ask them every day!! I remember a day when it was raining heavily in Colombo and drenched to the bone, I found some shelter. A guy who was already there, looking at my drenched clothes asked, ‘It’s raining isn’t it?’!!!!
PROPOSITION – God has an answer to the questions in your heart today.
In this sermon, I would like to dwell on the following 3 questions asked in the Christmas story by different people, and look at how God revealed the answers to them. One of these questions was asked before the birth of Jesus, one directly involved His birth and one was asked after His birth. The first question was:
1) HOW CAN I BE SURE OF THIS? (Luke 1:18)
In the 1st chapter of Luke we read about a godly couple; Elizabeth and her priestly husband Zechariah. They had no children and to make things worse, they were too old to hope for a child anymore (1:18). I have prayed for many couples with no children and one can feel some of the agony they go through as they keep trying to have a baby. I’m sure Elizabeth and Zechariah too went through much pain as they would have prayed many times over this (1:13). It so happened however that Zechariah’s turn to burn incense in the temple had arrived (some commentators believe that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity for a Priest – New International Bible Commentary) and Zechariah was at his ministry faithfully, when to his amazement, the angel Gabriel turned up at his ministry place with an astounding message (1:11-17). Gabriel gave him a prophecy of the miracle God was going to perform by blessing them with a baby in their old age (1:13)!! The prophecy had the following statements of hope.
“I have been sent…. To tell you this GOOD news“ (1:19).
“He (the child) will be a joy and delight to you” (1:14).
“He will be great in the sight of the Lord…. and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit…. to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (1:15-17).
Sadly, in a response of unbelief (1:20), Zechariah asked the question “How can I be sure of this?” and ended up losing his voice for a season (1:22). I won’t even try to suggest how he may have explained this entire episode to his wife!! God was however true to His Word, as always, and the miracle of the birth of John the Baptist took place!! (1:57)
Let’s try to imagine the absolute joy this elderly couple went through as they held the baby in their arms, and what changes it brought about in their neighborhood. The very people (neighbors and relatives) who may have been mocking them ended up praising them!! (1:58). While they were probably looking forward to a quiet retirement and being forgotten, “Throughout the hill country… people were talking about all these things” (1:65). Elizabeth was so overcome by joy that she proclaimed, “…He has shown His favor and taken away my disgrace among the people” (1:25). To make their joy complete, Zechariah’s speech was restored too (1:64) and he ended up composing a prophetic song!! (1:67-79)