Summary: Never give up hope... God is at work, often doing the extraordinary in the course of the very ordinariness of our lives.
Title: God Has Not Forgotten!
Text: Luke 1:5-25
Thesis: Never give up hope… God is at work in your life.
The story is told of an elderly couple who lived together in a nursing home. Though they had been married for 60 years, their relationship was filled with constant arguments, disagreements, and shouting contests. The fights didn’t stop even in the nursing home. In fact, the couple argued and squabbled from the time they got up in the morning until they fell in bed at night.
It became so bad that the nursing home threatened to throw them out if they didn’t change their ways. Even then, the couple couldn’t agree on what to do.
Finally, the wife said to her husband: "I’ll tell you what, Joe, let’s pray that one of us dies. And after the funeral is over, I’ll go live with my sister."
She had a plan.
I once had a staff person who was something less than organized… I would often remind him that, “failure to plan on his part did not constitute an emergency on my part.”
Some of you remember the old “A-Team” television series with Mr. T, Mad Dog Murdock and Col. “Hannibal” Smith played by George Peppard. The signature statement at the end of every episode was Hannibal’s, “I love it when a plan comes together.”
God is a planner who loves it when a plan comes together as well.
“Long ago, even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 1:4-5
We mark the Season of Advent during the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Advent is a time for preparing for the celebrations of the birth of Jesus Christ and his anticipated second coming. This morning, as part of our preparation, I want to reflect a bit on God’s plan and preparations for the coming of Christ.
Sometimes we forget that before God sent his Son, he made sure the way was prepared for his arrival. We will begin Advent by reflecting on with the way God executed one piece of his plan through Zechariah and Elizabeth…
It is interesting to note that God pretty much works through ordinary people who are living ordinary lives.
I. Life is lived pretty much in the ordinary. Luke 1:5-7
“Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments… they had no children because Elizabeth was barren, and now they were both very old.” Luke 1:5-7
They were two ordinary people with ordinary circumstances
Zechariah and Elizabeth were a married couple. Both were born into the families of priests. They were good people who practiced their faith with consistency and were regarded as righteous in God’s eyes. But, they had a stigma.
A stigma may be a tattoo or a brand. It is sometimes a mark of shame, as in the case of Hester Prynne.
In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic novel, The Scarlet Letter, the setting is mid-1600’s life in Puritan Boston. Hester Prynne, believing her husband is lost at sea has an affair with the Reverend Dimmsdale and is found to be pregnant. When her adultery is discovered she is sentenced to wear a scarlet letter “A” as a stigma, branding her as an adulterous.
A stigma is a mark of shame or it may also be a sign of a disease.
In our story today the stigma was Elizabeth’s inability to have children. In those days, no thought was given to the possibility that the husband might be incapable of fathering a child… if a couple was childless, it was the woman who was socially stigmatized.
In the United States between 6 and 7 million women between the ages of 15-44 have difficulty getting pregnant in a given year. Between 10% and 15% of married couples have difficulty conceiving. In 80% of cases the reason can be medically diagnosed… and half can be helped with medical treatment. But keep in mind, that is today. There were no fertility specialists in the day of Zechariah and Elizabeth.
And then, adding insult to injury, the story notes that both Zechariah and Elizabeth are very old.
So, we have a couple who have been married for along time. They come from respectable families. He has a regular job. They have never had children and they are getting on in years.
I want you to sense the humanness of this story. These folks could be sitting among us today. They had real faces. Their lives were as real as ours. They had families and friends, hopes and dreams, good days and bad days, routines and rituals, and they shared a personal disappointment that hung over them like a dark cloud.