Summary: We can count on God to breathe hope into the air of impossible situations.
The Christmas Angels – Part 1 CCCH 12-5-99
ILLUS – It’s about this time of year that I think about watching my favorite movie again, It’s a Wonderful Life. And I picture poor George Bailey standing in the snow without a coat on that bridge in Bedford Falls thinking about ending it all. Life hadn’t quite turned out the way George thought it would. Now that the building and loan was flat broke it seemed like he was up against an impossible situation with no way out.
And George Bailey reminds me that Christmas comes at a time of year when without question, someone somewhere will be up against a seemingly impossible situation with no way out. Maybe this year, it’s you.
A. As we read all the way back in history to the story of the angel’s visit to Zechariah it’s important to remember that even though times and cultures may change, God’s character remains the same.
That’s good. Because the angel says…
B. THESIS: We can count on God to breathe hope into the stale air of impossible situations.
TRANSITION: In the angel’s message to Zechariah we find two rays of hope. First of all…
I. WE CAN COUNT ON GOD WHEN WE FACE IMPOSSIBLE PERSONAL SITUATIONS
A. Zechariah and Elizabeth were facing the impossible situation of being childless late in life.
To be childless in those days often brought a lot of shame and sorrow to a couple.
1. Some Jews at that time did not believe in a bodily resurrection, so their hope of immortality was in their children. In addition, children cared for their parents in their old age and added to the family’s financial security and social status. Children were considered a blessing, and childlessness was seen as a curse. (Life Application Bible note on Luke 1:25)
2. Elizabeth even called her childlessness “a disgrace among the people” (Luke 1:25).
3. Some surely would have thought that their lack of an heir was the result of sin.
4. But Luke shows us this wasn’t the case: “Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly.” (Luke 1:6)
These 2 righteous people have lived with the deep disappointment of never having the child they longed for. And now they are well along in years – past the age of being able to have children. Humiliated and hopeless.
People talk about Z and E being nice people – but there must be some sin in their life. Who will take care of us when we are old?
B. God uses the climactic moment in Zechariah’s career as a priest to make His move.
1. As one of nearly 20,000 Jewish priests, Zechariah served at the temple in Jerusalem for two one-week periods each year.
2. A priest could offer the incense at the daily sacrifice only once in his lifetime. Today was Zechariah’s day! (Read v. 9-10)
Smoke of the incense symbolized prayers going to heaven. People were praying. Zechariah was undoubtedly praying. (In the temple alone. Before the God he had faithfully served, but now whom he wondered if he had offended.)
C. The angel Gabriel shows up with an important message.
1. Gabriel’s first words (Luke 1:13) are like a like a breath of fresh air:
a. “Do not be afraid, Zechariah.”
b. “Your prayer has been heard.”
2. There would be a child in the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth after all.
God stepped in late in the game. And brought hope where there was none. Hope, Zechariah. Hope, Elizabeth, after all these years.
ILLUSTRATION – In Jim Cymbala’s book, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, there is the story of a woman named Roberta Langella. A story she tells in her own words. At the age of 16 she left a broken home to move to New York City where she began living with a man twice her age. A man that got her into IV drug abuse through heroin and cocaine. One night after shooting up, her boyfriend thought she had died. He took off, leaving her on a rooftop where someone discovered her and called 911. The paramedics revived her.
Her feelings of worthlessness led her to one destructive, physcially abusive and drug-centered live-in relationship after another. She began going to underground clubs where she would shoot up and share needles with 20-30 people at a time. Eventually she and her latest boyfriend were out of money, out of food, the utilities had been turned off, and she they were selling their furniture to finance their drug habit.
Faced with this impossible situation, she called her mother back in Florida, who let her move down, and got her into Narcotics Anonymous where she kicked the drug habit and soared with newfound confidence.