Summary: A look at four groups of people impacted by the visitation of God on the first Christmas. These four groups are represented one way or another in every visitation of God.
A Visitation of God
In Luke 1:68 Zacharias praised God concerning the coming of Christ and prophesied saying, “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people...” (NKJV) The word translated “visited” is “epeskepsato” and it’s meaning here is “to make an appearance in order to help”. God has visited His people. We know that God is omnipresent. Jesus has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).
So what is a visitation of God? It is a time when God comes on the scene in a special way with a specific purpose in mind to help His people.
On Christmas we are celebrating an awesome visitation of God—the arrival of baby Jesus. In His goodness God visits His people. He did so in the days of Moses. At the dedication of Solomon’s temple they experience a visitation of God. Think about the extraordinary way God worked on the Day of Pentecost. God is always with His people; but there are also those special times of refreshing, revival, visitation. Review the Old Testament and the New Testament and you will find plenty of examples of special visitations of God. Study the history of the church and you will see God stepping in and reviving His people time and time again. When I use the word revival I am not talking about a two week series of services. Revival means different things to different people and we do not have the time this morning to fully expound on the terminology. But the definition I am using is closely related to what Peter said in his sermon on in Acts 3:19 “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” The word translated “times” in that verse is “kairos”. It means appointed time, an opportune time, a season—not just time chronologically marked off on the clock and calendar—“that the ‘kairos’ of refreshing may come from the Lord”.
Here in Springfield we enjoy four seasons every year. There is the summer with lots of sunshine and warm weather. There is the fall when things look like they are dying and the leaves fall from the trees. There is winter when the weather is cold and uncomfortable. And there is spring when everything seems to come alive and the spring shower water the land. If I were God we would have spring all year around . I love the warm showers and enjoy seeing things blossom. But Someone wiser than I has decided that the four seasons are a good idea. Does anyone here think we could pray and fast and get God to give us twelve months of spring every year? We would be asking amiss and missing out on what God has wisely provided for us.
There are two theological camps on the subject of revival. One camp says it is something God does when He chooses, where He chooses, and how He chooses and our part is to simply respond to what He is doing. Another camp says revival is a function of our receptivity and God will send revival anywhere the conditions are met. Peter’s words in Acts 3:19 seem to indicate that both sides have some truth but the whole truth must consider both. But using the word “kairos” there is an implied dependence upon God for the opportunity or season. It’s not that we can simply push the right buttons and make these things happen by our own volition. When we are relating to God we are deal with a person who has a will and a plan. We are not just dealing with a cosmic force or a gigantic slot machine. As Peter puts it, these times of refreshing “come from the Lord.” If a man can produce it, it’s not the real thing. God must choose to send it.
On the hand, there are preparations in our hearts that can open the way for us to receive such a time of refreshing. In Acts 3:19 Peter is calling upon these people to do certain things “so that your sins may be wiped away, that the times of refreshing may come...” What is the principle thing that must be done? “Repent, then, and turn to God...” God’s part is to send the refreshing when He wants to, how He wants to, and to whom He wants to. Our part is to prepare our hearts to receive from Him.
The visitation of God in our Christmas story comes after a very dry spell. You talk about being spiritually parched—this visitation came after 400 years of silence from God—not one prophecy, no dreams, no visions. The only thing they had to keep them going was the recorded word of God in Scripture. The Scripture was a powerful sustaining element in their walk with God. Without the Torah Israel would have completely lost all touch with God’s revelation of Himself. Four hundred years of dry silence and then comes a visitation from God. We know two things for sure about that 400 years of silence. One, it came as a result of Israel’s unfaithfulness to what they knew to be right. Second, it ended at exactly the time God chose for it to end. Gal 4:4 “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son...”