Summary: Seeing ourselves in Jesus’ parents, and responding in worship
Worship Like the Parents
December 22/23, 2001 – Steve Simala Grant
From Yancey (The Jesus I Never Knew, p. 43-44), quoting JB Phillips:
A senior angel is showing a very young angel around the splendors of the universe. They view whirling galaxies and blazing suns, and then flit across the infinite distances of space until at last they enter one particular galaxy of 500 billion stars.
As the two of them draw near to the star which we call our sun and to its circling planets, the senior angel pointed to a small and rather insignificant sphere turning very slowly on its axis. It looked as dull as a dirty tennis ball to the angel, whose mind was filled with the size and glory of what he had seen.
“I want you to watch that one particularly,” said the senior angel, pointing with his finger.
“Well, it looks very small and rather dirty to me,” said the little angel. “What’s special about that one?”
To the little angel, earth did not seem so impressive. He listened in stunned disbelief as the senior angel told him that this planet, small and insignificant and not overly clean, was the renowned Visited Planet.
“Do you mean that our great and glorious Prince … went down in Person to this fifth-rate little ball? Why should He do a thing like that?” …
The little angel’s face wrinkled in disgust. “Do you mean to tell me,” he said, “that He stooped so low as to become one of those creeping, crawling creatures of that floating ball?”
“I do, and I don’t think He would like you to call them ‘creeping, crawling creatures’ in that tone of voice. For, strange as it may seem to us, He loves them. He went down to visit them to lift them up to become like Him.”
The little angel looked blank. Such a thought was almost beyond his comprehension.
Are you ready? A common question this time of year. It is usually a question about whether the shopping is done, gifts wrapped, tree decorated, food organized, plans made. But I want to ask – Are you ready to worship? Are you prepared to concentrate not on the details of the celebration but on the reason for the celebration?
The day when we celebrate God becoming man is just around the corner. We’ve been walking towards this celebration by looking at how the people in the story worshiped the Christ child – beginning with the shepherds who were enthusiastic and shared the good news with everyone, and last week looking at the Magi who journeyed great distances so that they could bow before the King of the Jews and bring their gifts of worship. Today let’s look at the parents in the story – Zechariah and Elizabeth and Joseph and Mary. Let’s see what their journey was like and how they responded.
1. John’s Parents (Luke 1:5-80)
I had never realized prior to this week how much attention Luke pays to John’s parents. There are about 60 verses describing Zechariah and Elizabeth’s experience, and only about 55 verses describing Jesus’ birth. They are an important part of the story! How did God reveal Himself to them, and how did they respond? Perhaps you’ll see some similarities to how God has revealed Himself to you, and some ways you can respond.
Luke sets the context for us in vss. 5-7 (read). They were righteous, they had no children, and they were old. And then Luke tells us the story of Zechariah being chosen to bring the incense offering. Now, as a priest Zechariah would have been “on duty” at the temple twice per year for a week each time. One of the important duties was to present the offering of incense – something a priest was only able to do once in his life assuming he was chosen by lot (some never had the privilege). So it was an extremely important moment – possibly the most important in Zechariah’s entire life. The priests would enter the sanctuary together, then at the appointed time they would all leave except for the one bringing the incense offering. It is then that Zechariah meets the angel Gabriel, who tells him about the coming birth of his son John.
I find Zechariah’s response quite interesting. First he is terrified, overwhelmed with fear (vs. 12). But after the angel delivers the message (which, by the way, he specifically notes is in response to Zechariah’s prayer), there is quite a different response: he boldly demands a sign to prove this, and states the obvious fact that he and Elizabeth are far too old to start a family (vs. 18). We know that there was a resistance in Zechariah by Gabriel’s response: “you did not believe my words” (vs. 20).