Summary: Are we ready mentally and spiritually to celebrate Messiah’s arrival?
Ready For Jesus The Messiah (Advent / Christmas)
[HTML formatted version of this sermon is located at:
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea,
40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. NIV
Well, it’s now the first Sunday in December, and the Thanksgiving holiday is officially behind us. Most of us probably spent Thanksgiving eating too much turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and our favorite vegetables and pies. Some of us (me included!) may have watched way too much football and golf on TV (I don’t know…is it possible to watch too much football or golf?).
So now it’s time to think about the upcoming Christmas holiday. Again, we’ll probably eat and drink too much, and watch too much TV. But the Christmas season has a whole lot of other distractions, too, probably more than any other holiday.
We have to worry about shopping (getting just the right gifts for all of the people on our lists). Many of those same gifts will then have to be returned the following week (including clothes that don’t fit, and items the person already has or doesn’t like). The malls are crowded this time of year, and the traffic and parking are slow.
If you get a real Christmas tree each year, then you need to decide where to buy it, the size and the type of tree you want, and how much you want to spend. Then you have the trouble of putting it into the car, driving it home, and getting it to stand straight and sturdy in the house. If you have an artificial tree, which we just bought this year for the first time, you can avoid some of the problems of getting and keeping alive a real one. But then you have to be able to put a fake tree together. With dozens of parts, that wasn’t as easy as we thought it would be.
Christmas decorations need to be purchased and taken out of storage. Putting up those decorations takes a lot of time and energy, because it has to be done "just right". There are decorations for the windows, the doors, and the outside shrubbery. And let’s not forget decorating the tree, with garland, lights, balls, and all types of other keepsakes we’ve gathered over the years.
I’ve saved the biggest material distraction until last, and that’s money! We need to be able to pay for all of the other distractions I just mentioned, and a lot of us overspend in trying to buy all of those things that we think we need.
There are many of what I call religious distractions, things that keep people from remembering the Christian meaning of the season. Jewish people celebrate Chanukah, and many blacks observe Kwanzaa. In the City offices where I work, decorations are up for these holidays. However, putting up a stable scene or a star of Bethlehem is not usually permitted in government offices (despite the fact that many employees who object to Christian symbols consider themselves to be sensitive to cultural and religious diversity!).
Today, I want to talk about Mary and Elizabeth’s readiness for the birth of the Messiah. In Luke 1, verses 39-40, which I just read, we see that immediately after the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, telling her that she would give birth to the Messiah, that Mary "got ready" and "hurried" to visit her cousin Elizabeth. I want to look at what these two women of faith can teach us about our own readiness to celebrate our Messiah’s birth, as well as our readiness to see Jesus when He returns at any time to rapture us into heaven.
Mary and Elizabeth have a number of things in common. First, they are cousins, related by family ancestry.
Both women also have unusual and miraculous pregnancies. Although Elizabeth was barren and elderly, in Luke 1 we read that she becomes pregnant, and she will later give birth to John the Baptist. Mary is a young woman from the city of Nazareth, a virgin who is unmarried, yet she also becomes pregnant by the Holy Spirit and will give birth to Jesus the Messiah.
Both women would have endured varying amounts of religious and social ostracism. Elizabeth lived most of her life unable to have children. In her Jewish culture, the problem of a woman being barren was viewed as punishment from God for some grave sin. Mary was a young girl who, although engaged to Joseph but not yet married to him, became pregnant. According to Levitical law, she could have been stoned for the sin of fornication. While this didn’t happen to her, no doubt people in her culture gossiped and maligned her for the sin of which they wrongfully judged her, just as people undoubtedly did to Elizabeth for what they mistakenly assumed about her.