Summary: This is the second in a series of messages looking at the Advent story. It examines the plan of God for the salvation of His people and our invitation to be a part of that plan.
The Stories of Advent Pt 2
Part of the Plan
In our celebration of Advent we come now today to the story of the Angels of Advent. Four times during the Advent story Angels play a decisive part in the narrative of Messiah¡¦s coming. First with Zacharias, then Mary, then Joseph, then finally the Shepherds. Four completely different stories ¡V with completely different people ¡V and completely different problems yet the message is strikingly similar.
Read Matthew 1:18-25. I read this passage in particular because it demonstrates fully the similarity of the events with each of the five people visited.
1) In all four instances the angels stepped into the lives of ordinary people and gave them an extraordinary opportunity to be a part of His plan.
„Y Zacharias ¡V was in the temple when the angel appeared to him. He had prayed long for a child but his wife Elizabeth was barren. While he stood in the Holy of Holies an angel appeared to him and he was troubled and fear gripped him. But it wasn¡¦t just the presence of the Angel that made him afraid ¡V the angel had a message that a son would be born to him ¡V listen to his response. ¡§How shall I know for certain? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.¡¨ Face to face with the messenger of God ¡V Zacharias isn¡¦t to sure he wants to be a part of this great drama. What does he have to risk ¡V trusting God to do what is impossible ¡V bring forth a child to a couple beyond child bearing years.
„Y Mary ¡V the angel appears to Mary and says ¡§Hail favored one! The Lord is with you.¡¨ But it says her heart was greatly troubled trying to figure out what that meant. Being singled out by God can be a difficult thing. Somehow we would like to go unnoticed ¡V just blend in and be the average Jo. You see if we are singled out maybe God will ask of us more than we are able to give. John Ortberg wrote this ¡§many people in churches these days want some comfort associated with Spirituality, but they don¡¦t want the risk and challenge that goes along with actually following Jesus.¡¨ Often like sheep we find comfort in the jostling bodies of the crowd and fear comes when we are called on to stand out among the crowd. Mary had to risk being different ¡V singled out ¡V if she was to participate.
„Y Joseph ¡V To Joseph the angel appeared in a dream ¡V Joseph¡¦s life had just been turned upside down. Events running out of control. He was betrothed to the most beautiful woman in the world ¡V his dreams were becoming a reality. He would settle down in his carpentry business ¡V build a home and a family ¡V pass his business on to his children and all would be well with the world. Until Mary came to him one day and said ¡V ¡§We have to talk.¡¨ You know all bad news starts that way. Joseph¡¦s world came crashing down around him. The angel found a man sleeping who thought his world had come to an end and gave him the opportunity to be part of the plan.
„Y Shepherds ¡V The angels appeared to the shepherds and turned their world upside down. Their quiet pasture field was turned into an Angelic Concert Hall as the host of heaven celebrated the birth of the Messiah. Surrounded by a host of angels these quiet unassuming men were told that they would be the first to see the Messiah who had been born for all men. The world must have been spinning for these guys. In a moment they went from relaxing with sheep to making a mad dash for Bethlehem. In a moment ¡V unplanned ¡V unrehearsed ¡V unsure, and unready ¡V they were asked to be a part of the plan.
In each of the stories fear and uncertainty filled the lives of the people involved. Their stories are like all human stories a complex interaction between faith and fear. On Each occasion the Angel says ¡V Don¡¦t Be Afraid! Boy that¡¦s easier said than done isn¡¦t it? When you are looking for certainties in an uncertain life like Zacharias. When you are called out of the crowd for something special like Mary. When your life seems out of control like Joseph. When your world is spinning a little to fast and furious like the shepherds. It¡¦s easier to say Don¡¦t be afraid than to actually not be afraid. But the angels tell each one why and the message is the same. It¡¦s the same for each person in the Advent story ¡V and it¡¦s the same for you and I today.