Summary: Working through the Gospel of Luke using consecutive expository preaching. Luke 1:8-14 This sermon fell on the First Sunday of Advent
Sermon: “First Angel in Luke”
A sermon for November 29, 2020
Pastor John Bright
Harmony & Swansonville UMC
Luke 1 “8 So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10 And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.”
Just before our reading today, the Gospel of Luke begins with a picture of barrenness – not Mary and Joseph… they will come later. We start with Zacharias and Elizabeth. In only a couple of verses we find out lots of background. They are both from the tribe of Levi. In the Old Testament, it was the Levites who would serve in the Temple worship. They were expected to have standards of behavior that would set them apart. In the old days of Methodism, pastors would actually do yard work in a shirt and tie. I heard about a Methodist Church in Southside Virginia that got upset when the pastor cut his grass in a short-sleeved shirt with no tie. HOW HORRIBLE! Things have certainly changed – thank God! Let me share how we are supposed to look at the pastor today. Clergy have been set apart for certain ministry tasks. We are set apart – not above. We walk side by side with the laity as the work of ministry in the local church so that we can win the lost and heal the broken hearted!
At the beginning of this Advent Journey through the Gospel of Luke, I want to make sure we see something right away – God looks at the heart of a person and knows what is going on inside each of us. God knew about Zacharias and Elizabeth – “6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.”
You’ve heard this before - Jesus put it this way – Matthew 15:19 “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.”
The Prophet Samuel put it this way – 1 Samuel 16:7 “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
And in the Early Church, Peter wrote – 1 Peter 3 “3 Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— 4 rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”
We are going to see in Zacharias and Elizabeth and Mary and Joseph a quality of inner righteousness – loving God and loving people. When the inner person is right with God, what flows out? Well, for these two folks in Luke chapter 1 – who are probably in their 60s – they observe the commandments of God. Why? Because what is inside flows outward. Jesus told the Pharisees that was not what goes in that defiles but rather, what comes out (Matt. 15:11) Just because they do what is right – doesn’t mean life is all good – they have no children.
Once is a lifetime offer for Zacharias – v.8-10
“8 So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10 And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense.”
All the priest from the Tribe of Levi were divided into groups that travel to Jerusalem twice a year for their time of serving in the temple. There were many jobs in the temple, but the most special was serving before the altar in the temple. Deep inside Solomon’s Temple that stood in Jerusalem in Jesus’ day, was the Holy of Holies that held the Ark of the Covenant. Just outside the entrance to the Holy of Holies, there was an altar for burning incense. One priest was chosen to burn the incense every evening. Each day there were about 50 priests serving – that would be over 300 in a week. Since there were so many, a priest could expect to have this honor once in their lifetime.