Summary: Zechariah (the father of John the Baptist) declared certain prophecies about the coming Messiah and how He would fulfill the dream of a "white Christmas" for Israel. What were these prophecies, and how did Jesus fulfill them?
OPEN: (I began the sermon by leading the congregation in singing “White Christmas”)
I’m dreaming of a White Christmas, just like the ones I used to know.
Where the treetops glisten, and children listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow.
I’m dreaming of a white Christmas with every Christmas card I write.
May your days be merry and bright and may all your Christmases be white.
APPLY: White Christmas is THE Christmas song of the United States. It was originally recorded by Bing Crosby back in 1942, and it became so popular that he had to re-record it in 1947 because the masters became worn beyond use.
Its popularity had a lot to do with the fact that America had just gone to war. Our people found themselves in a confusing and unstable world - loved ones being shipped off to the battlefront, not knowing if they would ever see their families again.
And so this song had a powerful impact on American soldiers. They dreamt of a white Christmas when they could come home again. And WHEN that “white Christmas” came, all would be merry and bright.
For centuries, the Jews had dreamed of their own “White Christmas”
For centuries they been given promises that predicted the coming of a Messiah.
And that messiah would bring
* salvation to His people
* forgiveness for their sins
* and light and peace to those who were God’s people.
THUS the Jews were looking forward to a time when life would be merry and bright again.
Isaiah had predicted that when that day came: "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Isaiah 1:18
Through Isaiah, God had declared that there would be a “White Christmas” for His people. There would come a day when their lives would be cleansed as “white as snow”.
And their lives would be changed forever!
Now over the centuries – as the Jews watched for this Messiah - they waited… and waited… and waited. And they waited so long they actually began to wonder if He was ever coming. They became a people so filled with despair that they were who literally “living in darkness and in the shadow of death”.
ILLUS: There’s an old hymn that describes that despair that filled Israel:
“O Come, O Come Immanuel, and ransom captive Israel.
That mourns in lowly exile here; until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice, rejoice, Immanuel shall come to thee or Israel.”
So when the angel appeared to Zechariah – Zechariah was initially skeptical. But when he fully understood the significance of his unborn son’s life ministry he knew his son was going to herald in this long promised Messiah.
As a result, God allowed Zechariah to make a prophecy, not only about his son’s ministry, but about this Messiah who was finally coming to change the lives of God’s people.
So… how was this Messiah going to change people’s lives?
Well, for one thing Jesus came down from Heaven to shine His light into darkness of our souls. In John 8:12 Jesus declares “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
Now look again at Luke 1:78-29. Zechariah tells us that “because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
He was to shine a on those living in the darkness. How did He accomplish that?
How did Jesus shine light into our lives?
I realize there are several different ways to apply this, but it occurred to me that part of what Jesus came to do was to declare to us a different way to look at life.
In Ephesians 4:17-20 Paul writes:
“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are DARKENED in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. YOU, however, DID NOT COME TO KNOW CHRIST THAT WAY.”
Without Christ, people live lives that are often darkened in their understanding. But once we come to know Christ, we think differently than the world does.
In His teaching, Jesus told us that:
The world looked at the law that declared “Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment” And thought to themselves: ‘it’s ok to be bitter towards people who hurt you.’