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Christmas 2021-Advent

2021 Christmas Advent  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Hope can only be found in the Baby laid in a manger and only through a repentant heart

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As we begin this morning, will you please turn in your copies of God’s Word to the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1. We will read these verses shortly, so please have them marked and ready for that time.
You know, Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year. There is an excitement in the air that seems to be missing much of the rest of the year. It seems like everywhere you go you see smiles and joy fills the air.
Having spent many years living in a major city, one of the things we did many years is to drive down to Kansas City to see the
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The Plaza Lights
From time to time we would ride one of the many horse drawn carriages and walk around from shop to shop looking at all sorts of things we could never afford to buy, even just looking was a lot of fun for us.
On the way home we had a few set neighborhoods we would drive through where the neighborhoods had a joint decorating effort. Each year many would have a different theme for the year and the everyone would follow the theme.
We also had a lot of fun decorating our own home. I would put the tree up and then move to the outside to put all of the lights up there while Pam and the kids would decorate the tree and the insides. The past few years have been kind of strange, they have been our only Christmases since 1992 that we didn’t have at least 1 of our kids helping us decorate. In fact, many of our special memory decorations have now been distributed to the kids for their own Christmas trees. Pam and I have been married for over 34 Christmases and we have accumulated way to many decorations for just one tree!
Our Christmases have always been filled with our own family traditions. From the 1 and sometimes 2 presents we would open on Christmas Eve, to the formal Christmas Eve service at the church we were a part of in Kansas City that would end at exactly midnight, with a worship center filled with hundreds of people with the only light being hand held candles, singing an acapella Christmas carol at the close of the service.
Christmas morning would start with the reading of the Christmas story before we would take turns opening Christmas presents. Afterwards we would eat eggs, bacon and of course Pam’s amazing coffee cake. I think most every family has their own set of Christmas traditions.
Unfortunately far to frequently family Christmas traditions include everything but a celebration of the birth of our Savior. That is one of the reasons I wanted to spend the next few weeks leading up to Christmas in a concerted effort to draw all of our hearts to thinking about and remembering the whole purpose in celebrating Christmas, to think deeply on the birth of the One Who was born to die. So this Christmas season we will be celebrating Advent together.
The word Advent itself derives from the Latin word “adventus,” meaning “arrival.” In other words, this is a sacred season of anticipation, leading up to and preparing for Christmas day. It is a season of longing, wherein Christian worshippers stir their hearts and imaginations to yearn for the return of Christ and his Kingdom, as the ancient Israelites yearned for the coming of the promised Messiah. So for the believer, the anticipation is two-fold. First, we spend the month anticipating the celebration of the birth of Jesus, His first coming. Next Slide
Anticipating Christs First Coming.
The next thing we anticipate as followers of Christ is: Next Slide
Anticipating Christs Second Coming.
This anticipation for us should be a motivating factor behind how we seek to live our lives.
Advent is traditionally celebrated on the 4 Sunday’s preceeding Christmas, making today the first Sunday of Advent. Advent includes the lighting of 2 purple candles (1 for hope, the second for peace) followed by a pink candle representing joy, then another purple candle representing Love and finally, we will light the final white candle during our Christmas Eve service. The white candle is The Christ candle.
Today we start with the 1st purple candle: Next Slide
The Advent of Hope
As I light this candle, turn in your Bibles to the Gospel of Next Slide
Luke 1 Page 723 in the Pew Bibles.
Now that you have found Luke 1, let me set the stage for what is going on here. Interestingly, the most famous of the Gospel recordings of the Birth of Christ, was written most likely by a Gentile to a Gentile. The first 4 verses consist of: Next Slides
I. The Prologue of a Gentile Believer. Vs. 1-4
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Luke 1:1–4 ESV
1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
Luke, the writer, was a Gentile physician who accompanied Paul on his missionary journeys.
Theophillus, the recipient, was likely a wealthy Roman ruler or benefactor who had just become a Christian, or potentially a Roman governor who was simply trying to understand the new movement of Christianity that was reshaping his world.
Thus, Luke is writing to a fellow Gentile an account of why he believes what he believes, so that his reader will believe too or be strengthened in his faith.
You get the idea that Luke is adopting the posture of an investigative journalist. He wants us to know that the gospel does not belong to the genre of myth. Rather, the gospel is about something that happened in real history. More than that, the gospel is about something that has been “accomplished”. In other words, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus isn’t just a story, it is a story that brings to fulfillment all of the prophecies, promises, and proclamations of the Old Testament. Luke is saying this gospel isn’t just history – it is prophetic history, redemptive history, theological history about how God is intervening within his creation through the lives of real people like you and me. This is why Luke begins his gospel, not with Jesus, but with a man named Zechariah.
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II. The Prayer of an Old Priest (Lk. 1:5-10).
Zechariah was a priest and a direct descendant of Moses brother Aaron. His wife, Elizabeth was also a direct descendent of Aaron. They were both blameless and upright, now this doesn’t mean the lived a perfect life, but they were a couple who had lived a life of deep devotion to and love for the One true God. They also didn’t have any children. In those day’s, not having children was a huge deal and brought great shame to a childless couples. But let’s not forget another famous Old Testament couple who reached old age without being blessed with a child, that couple would be Abraham and Sarah, they welcomed their promised child when Sarah was 90 and Abraham was at or approaching 100 and from this couple came the Nation of Israel.
In those days, it had been around 400 years since the nation of Israel had heard anything from God. There were likely thousands of priests living in Judea in Zechariah’s day, and on this particular day, Zechariah’s division of priests was serving in the temple. Zechariah had drawn the lucky straw and he was the priest selected to “go into the Temple of the Lord and burn incense.” The vast majority of priests never had this opportunity. Now I want you to picture what is taking place right here, this is a huge honor for Zechariah. Next Slide
The Altar of Incense
The Old Testament Law specified that altar of incense was to be placed immediately before the veil and the Ark of the Covenant. It was quite literally the gateway to the presence of God (cf. Ex. 30:6). As Dr. Philip Graham Ryken comments: When the priests stood at the Altar of incense, they were standing right in front of God....So when a priest was offering incense on the golden altar, he was approaching the mercy seat. He was coming before the throne of grace --the place where God answers prayer.”
There is little doubt that Zechariah had prepared his heart for this high honor.
So here Zechariah is, praying in The Holy Place at the Altar of Incense. He could almost reach out and touch the veil that separated the Holy place from the Holy of Holies. As far as we know Zechariah may have been the only priest in the Holy place at that time. All of the sudden, we see in verse 11 & 12. Next Slides
Luke 1:11–12 ESV
11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him.
Can you imagine, your praying at the Altar of Incense, just feet away from the Veil leading into the Holy of Holies and all of the sudden an angel of God appears! Keep in mind what we looked at earlier, no one in the Nation of Israel had heard word one from God in over 400 years! 400 years of silence had been broken!
You can see why maybe Zechariah might have been praying a half-hearted prayer, doubting the goodness of God, the power of God, the presence of God.
So likewise you might feel like you are in a place where you have not heard or felt or experienced God in a long time.
If that is you, I want you to know the Advent of Hope is for you. If you have suffered recent grief, or feel forgotten, if you are feeling abandoned and alone Advent is for you. It is meant to stir your longing for the coming of Christ. It is to stir your heart to hope that in the same way He has already come once, he will come again.
That brings us to: Next Slides
III. The Promise of a Heavenly Angel (Lk. 1:11-17).
Many Biblical scholars do not believe that Zechariah was praying for a son at that time, chances are he and Elizabeth had given up on those prayers years ago. They believe that he was praying for the salvation of Israel, this is what the priest would pray for during the evening sacrifice. The salvation of Israel, which would mean he could very well have been praying for the coming Messiah.
With that in mind, let’s look at verse 13-14
Luke 1:13–14 ESV
13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been 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,
The angel didn’t just stop with “for your prayer has been heard”. That would have likely meant the Messiah was soon to come. He went on to say, and don’t miss the key word here, the word “and” The angel went on to say “and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son”.
If I am Zechariah, I would have been thinking, “Wait....what, my prayers for the salvation of Israel have been heard....and I am going to have a son at 60 plus!”
That brings us to Next Slides
IV. The Provision of a Faithful God (Lk. 1:18-25).
So what is Zechariah’s response? Look at verse 18 Next Slide
Luke 1:18 ESV
18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”
Zechariah is asking for a sign. Let’s not forget no one in Israel had heard from God in over 400 years, and here Zechariah is, standing next to the veil leading into the Holy of Holies, and what is clearly an angel sent from God comes to him and speaks and he wants a sign? That would be like Kevin & Leslie Hausman walking through the doors back there and Doug stops them at the door and asks for their ID’s. Wait.....you want an ID, do you not recognize us?
Let’s look at the angels response in verse 19 Next Slide
Luke 1:19 ESV
19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.
Dude, you may be a priest who is lucky enough to have drawn the lot to approach the Altar of Incense, and yes, that is a big deal, but “I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.
This is what you call a mic drop moment! After that, in my very vivid and unrealistic imagination, the angel bends over and picks up the mic and goes on to say: Next Slide
Luke 1:20 ESV
20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.”
You know, what I think may have taken place here is, Zechariah had lost heart that they would ever here from God again, or at least in his lifetime. And here appeared an angel with a story that seemed too good to be true. He and Elizabeth had lost heart, they had prayed for years for a son and it seemed as if God had turned a deaf ear to their prayers. They had suffered through a childless marriage, probably been looked down upon by many. Doesn’t suffering do that to us sometimes. Don’t we loose heart?
Suffering can harden our hearts, but it can also infuse our hearts with a hope that is beyond our present circumstances.
And here we stand looking at the Advent Candle of Hope.
That brings us back to Next Slide
III. The Promise of a Heavenly Angel (Lk. 1:11-17).
When Elizabeth had her son of promise, she gave praise to God, the God Who had become to her, her Jehovah Jireh, The Lord will Provide. The name Jehovah Jireh comes from another story our of Scripture. Close to 1900 years earlier, there was another couple way beyond childbearing years, a couple that had lost all hope of having a son, and then God promised them a son and He made good on that promised son. That couple was Abraham and Sarah. Their promised son was Isaac.
Many years after his birth, God told Abraham to take his son, his only son Isaac, whom he loved, and bring him to a special mountain to be sacrificed. The Bible tells us that Abraham rose early the next morning to obey the word of the Lord. He loaded the very wood Isaac was to be sacrificed on, on to the back of Isaac, and they began the 3 day journey. Just picture that in your mind for a moment, Isaac carried the very wood he was to be sacrificed on! Their 3 day journey led them to the mountains of Moriah, at which point God directed them to a very specific mountain, and not just a specific mountain, He led them to a specific spot on the mountain. We find out later in Scripture in 2 Chronicles 3:1 that God led them to the exact place where the Temple would one day be built. Could it be that the place of the sacrifice was the same spot where Zechariah was standing on when he received God’s promise of hope.
So here Abraham and Isaac are, at the spot of the sacrifice. Abraham moves the wood of sacrifice off of the back of the one to be sacrificed. Builds the altar and lays the wood upon it. He then ties up Isaac, and lays him on the altar of sacrifice. I wonder, did their eyes ever meet? Did Abraham look into Isaacs eyes as he laid him bound on the altar? Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. Just before he made the move to take the life of his son, the angel of the Lord spoke. Abraham had proven his unswerving love to God, a love that was willing to take the life of his own son. God in turn provided a ram for the sacrifice, thus sparing the life of Isaac. There, Abraham gave God a name, he gave Him the Name Jehovah Jireh, the Lord Will Provide. God had once again given hope to Abraham.
Now let’s fast forward to about 33 years from the day Zechariah heard God’s promise.
Similar to the day Isaac carried the wood of sacrifice to the place of sacrifice, a wooden cross was placed on the back of Jesus, then He carried the wood of His sacrifice to the place of the sacrifice. Once He reached to top of the hill Golgatha, He was laid upon the very wood of sacrifice He had carried, and then nailed to that wood. Abraham and Isaac were provided a substitute sacrifice, Jesus was provided no substitute, because He himself was the substitute. He was the substitute for you and me. He died the death we should have died, and His death provided for us the ultimate in Hope.
And so today, we light this great candle of Hope, knowing that the birth of the Savior means nothing without the sacrificial death of the Savior, who rose from the dead three days later, giving us Hope for eternity.
Let’s close our time this morning in prayer.
Benediction: Isaiah 53:4-5
Isaiah 53:4–5 NASB95
4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.
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