Summary: This sermon looks at the ministry of John the Baptist and talks about how we need to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ.

AM sermon preached at Central Christian Church December 5, 2010

Christmas Begins With Christ sermon series #1 John: Clearing the Path for Christ

Show sermon series slide---slide #1 as I’m heading up to the stage.

Once I’m on stage show slide #2 sermon title slide

Imagine this scene: It’s Sunday afternoon. You’re visiting someone in the nursing home. Suddenly in the hallway there’s a whole lot of commotion taking place. You peek your head out of the door to see if you can catch what’s going on and you overhear a conversation between the head nurse and an aid…. You’ve got to be kidding me? No, I’m serious. Mrs. Jones wants to take a pregnancy test. We are talking Elizabeth Jones in room 114, right? Yes, ma’am. That’s the one. She’s 93! What ever gave her the idea she was pregnant? Her husband. I asked him about it. And he acted like he had suddenly lost his hearing and his ability to speak. Now why would Zechariah do something like that? He’s never been the kind to pull a stunt like that. He’s always been a model resident. I know but all that’s apparently changed as of today. Personally if you were to ask me, I’d tell you---I think he’s went off the deep end. I mean seriously, Zechariah’s claiming that while he was setting up the chapel for this afternoon’s worship service that an angel told him that he and Liz were going to have a baby. Look. Here’s the note he wrote me. Read it for yourself…

Think about it---If you were in a nursing home and that kind of thing happened---how would you react? Would you find the situation humorous? Would you think “these poor nurses. I’ll bet they have to deal with crazy stuff like this all the time.” Would you wonder what caused the old man to snap? Would you wonder about Mrs. Jones and her believing her husband? Would you think that the old couple had come up with the idea in hopes of getting out of the nursing home? Think about it---but don’t think too hard about it because the reality is, of course, that that kind of thing will probably never happen to you. But something kind of like that happened about 2000 years ago---not in a nursing home but in the city of Jerusalem. The story’s found in the opening chapter of the New Testament book of Luke.

There was this old man named Zechariah. He was a priest. And he was the lucky winner of a drawing, more or less, which had been conducted to see who would have the honor of serving in the temple as the priest on duty---whose role was basically to be the lighter of candles and burner of incense---while praying for the nation. The drawing had been held because there were far more priests than need for priests on duty. And if I understand the practice correctly---a person could only have the privilege of being the priest on duty once. Many priests never received the call during their lifetime. Zechariah may have been thinking that he was going to be among the ones who never got to serve---when he name came up. And so now---there he was in the temple---filling the honored role when he received a visit from an angel. Let’s read what happened… Luke 1:8-25… SCRIPTURE SLIDES….

8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

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