Summary: 1. God wants to treasure our faithful service (vs. 5-10). 2. God wants to touch our lives (vs. 11-14). 3. God wants to train-up new leaders (vs. 14-16). 4. God wants to turn us in the right direction (vs. 16-17).
God Got Ready for Christmas
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - Dec. 8, 2013
*Our church has definitely been getting ready for Christmas. A quick look around the room leaves no doubt. The Manger Scene outside looks great too. Plus our Adult and Children's Choirs have been rehearsing for weeks. On behalf of the whole church I want to thank you for your hours of behind-the-scenes work.
*We're getting ready for Christmas, and today's Scripture reminds us that God got ready for Christmas too. This 2,000-year-old story about how God got ready tells us a lot about our God. Here we can see some of God's greatest desires for our lives.
1. First: God wants to treasure our faithful service.
*In vs. 5-10 we meet some people who were faithfully serving the Lord: Zacharias the priest and his wife Elizabeth. Verse 6 tells us that "they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless."
*This Scripture does not mean Zacharias and Elizabeth lived perfect lives. The only person who ever lived a perfect life was Jesus Christ! And by vs. 20 in today's Scripture, Zacharias is about to lose his voice because he did not believe the good news God sent by His angel. But the Bible also includes praise for Zacharias and Elizabeth in part to remind us that God pays close attention to His servants, and He treasures their faithful service.
*Now the Lord had something new, something special for Zacharias to do. In vs. 8&9:
8. So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division,
9. according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.
*This was a big, big deal for Zacharias or any other priest. John Harnish gives us this important background: "The problem was there were just too many priests. All the male descendents of Aaron formed the royal priesthood, and as the years rolled on they multiplied.
*There were way too many for the daily rituals of the temple. So they were organized in divisions, maybe only serving a few weeks every year. Within that band of servants, they cast lots, like the roll of the dice, to see who would actually get to offer the incense, lifting the people's prayers to God. Maybe only once in a lifetime, maybe never, but now it happened to Zacharias!" (1)
*Imagine his joy when the day came for Zacharias to serve God in this new and special way? Church: God wants us to have that kind of excitement when it comes to serving Him, knowing that each and every opportunity is a gift from God, something that He treasures and wants us to treasure.
*God cherishes our faithful service for His cause: Both the old service, and the new service He has in store for us. Don't think for a moment that luck took Zacharias to the Temple that day. It was all part of God's perfect plan.
*And God has plans for your service too: New opportunities for us, more divine appointments for us to keep. God wants to treasure our faithful service.
2. He also wants to touch our lives.
*This Christmas story reminds us that God wants to touch our lives with hope and joy. And we need God's touch, because there is sadness, stress and pain all around us.
*Zacharias and Elizabeth remind us of this truth. Yes they were faithful servants for the Lord, but at the same time they had a lot of heartache. Verse 7 tells us that "they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years." To deeply want a child and not be able to have one is a terrible heartache, and there are heartaches all around us.
*Marshall Hayden wrote about this truth in an article titled "Would Every Non-Hurter Please Stand Up." Marshall pointed out that people come to church wearing their best clothes and their best smiles. Everybody looks happy, so we think everything is okay. But Marshall said: "We need to look beyond the facade and realize that the pews are full of hurting people.
*Then he gave some examples from his experience: "Over here is a family with an income of $550 a week and an outgo of $1,000 a week. Over there is a family with two children who, according to their dad, are 'failures.' 'You're stupid. You never do anything right,' he is constantly telling them.
*The lady over there just found a tumor that tested positive. The Smith's little girl has a hole in her heart. Sam and Louise just had a nasty fight. Each is thinking of divorce. Last Monday Jim learned that he was being laid off. Sarah has tried her best to cover the bruises from her husband. That teen over there feels like he is on the rack, pulled in both directions. Parents and church pull one way. Peers and glands pull the other.