Introduction: Video Clip 12 Crazy Days Christmas from SermonSpice.com
Are you ready for Christmas?
I heard two men in our church foyer discussing what they were going to buy theirs wives for Christmas this year. One of the men said, “This year I think I will just wrap myself up as a present and give myself to my wife.” To which the other man replied, “Well I am not giving my wife much either!”
Are you ready for Christmas?
The secular world has been getting ready for Christmas for a while now.
Our Family received our first Christmas Catalogue in August
I saw my first Christmas Decorations October 20th in Cracker Barrel
I saw my first Christmas commercial October 29th, 2 days before Halloween!
The world is ready for Christmas! But I don’t think the world is prepared for Christmas.
THERE IS A DIFFERENCE
The world is ready for us to storm their stores spend our money after all there are only 21 shopping days left till Christmas, but the world is not prepared for the one who comes to bring Peace on Earth.
2000 years ago the same could be said for the people of Israel – They were ready for a Messiah, but I don’t think they were prepared for Jesus. The Jewish world was ready for a revolutionary leader, but they were not prepared for a redeemer.
Today I want us to go back and look at the life of a man who was waiting for a messiah and note how God prepared him for a savior.
His name is Zechariah, and Luke’s Gospel gives us a snapshot of his life.
In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.
Luke begins the account by telling us that Zechariah lived in the time of Herod the Great. This was one of the darkest times in Israel’s history. Herod was placed on the throne not by royal succession as a descendant of David; rather Herod was on the throne because the Romans had appointed him a puppet king. Not only was he a puppet king for Rome, Herod had no religious convictions and so the act of worship in that day had become an empty form of rituals and ceremonies with very little meaning to the people of God.
Yet in the midst of this spiritual darkness, there were a group of priest devoted to God who longed for the coming Messiah. Zechariah was one of those priests. Zechariah was described as upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly.
Yet there was a problem, his wife was barren, He and his wife were childless. In the OT to be without children was viewed as a sign of God’s displeasure. Every Jewish family had hoped for a son who would be the deliverer, the Messiah King. So to be childless meant you were out of God’s divine plan. Not only were they childless, verses 7 tells us they were both well along in years – childbirth opportunities had passed them by.
Maybe you can identify with Zechariah and Elizabeth, this couple was disappointed because of the plight of childlessness. Maybe this Christmas you’re facing your own disappointments as well.
If so you can identify with the disappointment of Zechariah and Elizabeth, if you can identify with their disappointment, I hope you can also learn from their example. Despite disappointments they faithfully served God. They were barren, outside of God’s plan, but they never succumbed to bitterness. Our pain may not be the absence of children, but there are many things that bring disappointments to our life…
Maybe this is a Christmas when a loved one with not be with you this year because of premature death or illness
Maybe you have experienced a financial pressures or a strained relationship and Christmas looks to be a season of disappointment rather than joy.
Maybe you are dealing with doubt, fear and worry as the Christmas season approaches.
God never guarantees a life without pain or disappointments. When life hits us with disappointments we have two options, we can become bitter or we can become better.
Bitterness brings forth anger and frustration robbing us of the joy of life, but we can become better by trusting and depending on God to find our fulfillment.
Though Zechariah was disappointed he was not bitter – he remained faithful in spite of circumstances. This Christmas you can be prepared for the season if you will focus on God and not your circumstances, focusing on God will make us better, focusing on circumstances can make us bitter. Because Zechariah focused on God an amazing thing happened. Note verses 8-10,
Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. In His goodness God chose an important moment in Zechariah’s life to make His divine move. As a priest Zechariah served in the temple for two one week periods a year. He was one of 18,000 priests in Israel at the time. As was the custom lots were drawn to determine who would officiate at the sacrifice on a given day. Each priest was allowed to officiate only once in his lifetime. So this was a very special day in the life of Zechariah.
The day would begin with the elders of Israel calling the people to worship
The temple doors would swing open and the musicians would sound 3 notes from a silver trumpet.
2 Assistants would enter into the holy place clean the altar and place new coals on to the altar
At that point Zechariah would enter the holy place, taking incense he would then light them from the fresh coals and as the smoke rose in the holy place it symbolized the prayers of God’s people going before God himself.
Outside all the people would be faced down in silent worship.
At the supreme hour of this priest’s life, as the smoke rose throughout the room – an angel shows up.
Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 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 give him the name John.
For 450 years God was silent, not since the days of the prophet Malachi had Israel heard a word from God. And now here is this aged priest, leading people in worship and God sends an angel with a new revelation…
Vs. 13, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.
When the angel appeared Zechariah was faced with many emotions.
Obviously he was afraid
It was believed of the OT if you saw God you would die. He had lived for the moment of leading in worship, and now he is fearful he is about to die.
But the angel tells him not to be afraid
Why? – His prayers had been answered.
Imagine the faith of this man, his wife is barren, they are long past the age of having children, but he continues to pray.
Maybe he recalled the story of Abraham – he was aged and God gave him a son – Isaac
Zechariah knew what people of faith know, God is not bound by circumstances. God does not need the right conditions or the right formula for Him to work a miracle. Too many people try to put God in a box. But God is too great and his plans are too vast to pigeon holed into a nice formula or pattern.
While God does not need anything to perform a miracle, he desires people who are willing to be used by Him. 2 Chronicles 16:9, For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.
When God finds people who are committed to Him he is ready to unleash the power of heaven to accomplish his purpose. That is exactly what He was doing with Zechariah. Here was a man who sought to be blameless, upright and keeping all of God’s commandments and how is he rewarded? your prayer has been heard
Important to note Zechariah was rewarded on God’s Timetable
We are not told why Elizabeth was barren. Imagine all the times she went to baby showers, all the times of celebrating new births and yet she was barren. Her disappointment caused her and her husband to pray, and pray they did, and then the day came when she knew it was no longer humanly possible to conceive, yet she continued to pray. Then one day when they least expected it, God showed up!
The angel’s announcement to Zechariah should remind us of the words of Jeremiah 29:11-14. For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the LORD
This year as you prepare for Christmas, I hope you will seek out the greatest gift, and friends you will not find it in a department store or under a tree rather the greatest gift is seek God this Christmas for he is waiting to listen to you!
Not only was Zechariah to be blessed with a son, this would be a special child. Note verses 14-17 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 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 from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."
While it was the dream of every family to have a son who would be the Messiah, Zechariah’s son was to be the forerunner
He would be a delight to his family, after John was born Elizabeth would say, “He (The Lord) has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people."
Many people would rejoice at his birth – Zechariah and Elizabeth would have a testimony
He would be set aside as a Nazarite taking special vows as a sign he was completely devoted to God
He called people back to reconciliation, Father’s to their children, this was to be a forerunner of What Jesus would do as he was call us back to be reconciled with our heavenly father.
Make people ready, prepared for God. As much as our culture denies it Christmas prepares our hearts for the Lord.
While the world has tried to make this a time of winter holidays with a focus of gifts and excess, 2000 years ago God was preparing us to meet him once again by sending a John as a fore runner, preparing us for the day when we would see Jesus.
Having heard the news he was to have a son, Zechariah’s first response is not one of joy but of doubt, note verses 18-20, Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years." The angel answered, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time."
How can I be sure of this? After all my wife and I are too old to have children. At first this looks like a normal question, but in truth it shows a sign of doubt. Here Zechariah stands before an angel who gives him a great revelation and his response – “How can I be sure of this?”
Gabriel gives Zechariah a sharp rebuke
I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.
Gabriel does not give him a reason to believe the promise, Gabriel points to the source of promise. I stand in the presence of God! I have been sent by God!
A quick lesson to be learned – unbelief always carries with it serious consequences. Because Zechariah refused to believe, the angel silenced him for nine months, he was speechless.
Maybe you are facing some doubts this Christmas as well. Maybe you are faced with some uncertainty in the job market, maybe there are a few medical test that are on the horizon causing you some anxiety.
Zechariah’s first response was one of doubt, but we should not follow the example of Zechariah when it comes to doubt rather the Christmas story should inspire us to confidence rather than doubt. Because God was faithful 2000 years ago bringing about the birth of John, we can have confidence he will be faithful to us when we are faced with doubts.
God was faithful, scripture tells us Zechariah went home, Elizabeth became pregnant and nine months later John was born. At his birth, his mother, Elizabeth had this to say. Vs. 25, "The Lord has done this for me," she said. "In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people."
Zechariah and Elizabeth could rejoice because God was faithful.
Zechariah and Elizabeth could rejoice because God answered their prayers
Zechariah and Elizabeth could rejoice because God was using them to prepare the world for Christmas
What does the account of Zechariah and Elizabeth teach us about preparing for Christmas this year?
Circumstances do not determine our faithfulness
Z & E, were faith even in the most difficult of situations, She was barren,they were aged, no hope for being a part of God’s plan yet they continued to be faithful to God.
This year your circumstances may not be perfect for you to celebrate Christmas, but that does not mean we are to throw in the towel when it comes to trusting God, we are called to faithful, even if it’s difficult. 1 Peter 4:19, if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.
Circumstances are not a sign of God’s displeasure with you
Elizabeth thought her barrenness was brought about by God’s displeasure with her life. In reality God was using her barrenness as a way to glorify Him. When the time had passed when it was no longer humanly possible for her to bare children, God performed a miracle, which told all people he was preparing to do something great in the lives of many people. Paul told the Corinthians, we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed…so the life of Jesus may be revealed in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:7-10
Often times God uses our difficulties to shine the light on His power. While we focus on the joy of the holidays we must be honest many people suffer during this time of the year, their suffering can turn into bitterness but God does not want us to be bitter about our circumstances rather he would have us trust Him during our difficulties. Paul said, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
God is faithful regardless of the circumstances
Z & E were faced with a hopeless situation – aged and barren. As the years crept by they knew they would have no one to care for them in their latter years, this had to cause anxiety on the part of Z & E. Yet God was faithful he provided their needs and removing their disgrace – he gave them a son.
We must understand God does not grant every thought and request we desire, but God is faithful to align our desires with his purpose to bring about his will. Whatever our circumstances we must trust God to be faithful. We have this promise from God’s word. Psalm 37:25, I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.
Are you ready for Christmas? Have you made your list, got all of your dates in line? While it is great to be ready for Christmas – it is more important that you are prepared for Christmas.
We prepare for Christmas by being faithful regardless of the circumstances Christmas brings – Are you ready –are you prepared?