Summary: The story of Zechariah and the angel telling him of his coming son John. This message is about the presence of Hope in Christmas
The Presence of Hope
What would happen if one morning, during the middle of your daily routine, an angel appeared and told you that God had a plan that would completely change your life? How would you respond?
Luke’s account of the Christmas story includes two such incidents, Next week we’ll talk about the second story – Mary’s story. This Sunday we’ll look at the first and lesser known story.
This event involved the angel Gabriel who this first appears to an unknown priest named Zechariah in the temple as he conducts his duties.
Let’s read the story together…
How Can I know?
18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I know that what you say is true? I am an old man, and my wife is old, too.”
Zechariah has been confronted with the heavenly glory of God’s messenger, a clearly supernatural interruption of his day. Yet his response to the angel’s astounding news is to try and fit it into his existing assumptions about his life and his future.
"How can I know that what you say is true?"
Gabriel, who was pretty sure he was being clear, is not amused.
There are some people you just don’t joke with. You don’t joke with the security at the airport about a bomb in your luggage.
I was talking with a Pastor friend of mine at a charismatic church and he told me about a conversation with a building inspector who told him that he had to build a wheelchair ramp for the platform in his auditorium. He tried to joke with him and said, oh we don’t need a ramp, we heal everyone in this church. The man looked at him like he was from mars. You just don’t joke with some people.
That apparently included the angel Gabriel… because he said, “I stand in the presence of God, and 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."
When God communicates with us or takes action in our lives, it is rarely with the impact of the angel’s appearance. But I think our reaction is often much like Zechariah’s.
We question whether it is real. "Was that God speaking to me, or a hallucination? Was that a miracle, or just a coincidence? And if that really WAS God, can that really be what He meant?"
While we may relate to Zechariah’s confusion and skepticism, we must be aware that it has its cost. It’s not so much that we might be struck dumb if we doubt God’s authority or interest in us, but that we might miss the blessings and peace God desires to share with us.
Whether they come to us through a heavenly messenger or a passage of Scripture, God’s promises are trustworthy, and our ability to accept them and live them is limited primarily by our ability to believe them. As Zechariah’s story demonstrates, God is never predictable, but is always faithful.
We Need the Presence of Hope
If you read your Bible, you’ll find out
that’s pretty much how it seems to work.
8 But Abram said, “Lord GOD, how can I be sure…?”
Remember Abraham? God appeared to Abraham, who was childless in his old age, and promised that his descendants would be as numberless as the sands on the seashore. And Abraham answered, “O Soveriegn Lord, how can I know?” (Genesis 15:8).
17 Then Gideon said to the LORD, “If you are pleased with me, give me proof that it is really you talking with me.”
Remember Gideon? When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon under the oak tree in Ophrah, and promised that God would use him to deliver the Israelites from their Midianite oppressors, Gideon said, “Give me a sign!” (Judges 6:17).
So we shouldn’t be surprised that, when an angel appears to Zechariah and tells him some “wild and crazy things,” that he should ask, “How can I be sure?”
That’s just a reflection of what all of us want.
We want certainty,
we want assurance,
we want to know that there are some things we can know.
And you wanna know something else?
If you read your Bible, you’ll also find out
that time after time after time,
God supplies the certainty his children ask for. . .
Not enough to make faith unnecessary,
but enough to make it more than possible.
Jesus Is the Fulfillment of Many Promises From God
So, How Can I find the Presence of Hope
Can we have any assurance that these things we
read in the Christmas story are really true?
Do we really have grounds to believe that, as the Bible says, God became a man and lived among us?