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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.
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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
The Prologue of a Gentile Believer.
Vs. 1-4
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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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The Prayer of an Old Priest (Lk.
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.
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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
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
The Promise of a Heavenly Angel (Lk.
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
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