µ Advent: Today we start the recognition of Advent (Latin word meaning “coming” or “arrival”). It is a time to celebrate Christ’s first coming into the world as an infant but also a time of hopeful anticipation for Christ’s second coming. Each Sunday we will read Scriptures that prepare us to receive the coming of Jesus into our lives. We will reflect & rejoice, watch and wait for Jesus.
One popular hymn to portray the meaning of advent is “O Come Emmanuel” with these lyrics:
O come, O come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel
EXAMINE Luke 1:5-38 AAJ: Prophecy & Promise Foretold
God’s promises are for ordinary people.
As a good historian, Luke opens his Gospel with a time reference “in the days of Herod, king of Judea” (37BC – 4AD). Herod was a regional king, unlike Caesar Augustus of Rome. However, Herod was “great” in that he amassed fame & fortune to his own name, legendary architecture & structures (temple, theatres, harbors; stones with his own logo – modern day branding). But, Herod was also ungodly, bathing his own house & people in blood – murdering his wife, mother-inlaw & two sons in fear and paranoia that they would usurp his authority. He was known for crushing his enemies militarily, politically or personally. Josephus writes this epitaph: “A man he was of great barbarity toward all men equally, and a slave to his passions, but above the consideration of what was right. Yet was he favored by fortune as much as any man ever was, for from a private man he became a king, and though he were encompassed by ten thousand dangers, he got clear of them all and continued his life to a very old age”.
“There was a priest named Zechariah…wife…Elizabeth” (1:5). They were an ordinary married couple. Zech was a priest, Liz a woman from the line of Aaron (priests) and both were followers of God, walking in faith & obedience; both were advanced in years andElizabeth was barren so they had no children.
– Life was ordinary
- Emotionally insecure– just them! They likely had times of doubt and insecurity.
- Joy and gladness were not prevalent and doubt persisted (v.14, 18).
- Reproach (v.25) and lacking God’s favor/grace was upon Liz’s mind.
- Infertility could have led to bitterness but they hoped in God (v.6). Or could have been grounds for Zech to gain another wife to produce children. But Zech chose faithfulness to wife and to God.
- Worship God not your kids! Individuals get bored so they get married, after while they get bored so they have children, after while get bored so they send them off, after while get bored they expect grandchildren… endless cycle of discontentment if not in God.
- Find your identity & significance in that Christ gives not what children can give.
- Physically insecure – just them! They stood out in the neighborhood (“among my people”) as the couple w/o kids (v.25)
- Financially insecure – just them! Children, especially sons would carry on the family and even more care for the parents in older hardships. Proverbs 17:6 “Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are pride of their children”
- Spiritually insecure – just them! They prayed (v.13) for children and likely wondered if God was hearing their prayers and cared for their hopes.
“he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty…chosen by lot to enter temple” (1:8)
There were 24 divisions of the priests (1Chronicles 24-25) with numerous priests yet not enough sacred duties for them all, so lots were cast to perform each function. “The offering of incense was regarded as a great privilege. A priest could not offer incense more than once in his entire lifetime (Mishnah, Tamid 5:2), and some priests never did receive the privilege. Thus the time when Zechariah offered the incense was the most important moment in his whole life.”
“a city named Nazareth…to a man named Joseph and a virgin named Mary” (1:26)
LIKEWISE – God’s promise is to an ordinary, rural town ofNazareth(rural meant pagan lifestyle) and to young Joseph & Mary.
God allowed an ordinary priest, Zechariah, a unique privilege not only to enter the temple to burn incense but also sending the angel Gabriel to promise a blessing of a prophesied child in John, the forerunner to the Messiah. The only word to describe God’s blessing to ordinary people is: GRACE.
µ Do you demand God’s blessing in your life or do you see it as undeserving grace?
Isaiah 66:2 “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”
James 4:6 “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
µ How do you view success?
- God views success in terms of a humble, faithful servant – NOT like boastful Herod of his fortune & fame.
- God calls you to define success in life by faithfully LOVING GOD, LOVING OTHERS & LEADING GENERATIONS
God’s promises are for extraordinary purposes.
The angel Gabriel spoke both to Zechariah and also to Mary/Joseph about God’s promised plan they were all amazed. As good Jews, they longed for God to send the Messiah. They watched evil Rome along with Herod control the Jewish people and waited for God to deliver them. And the time had finally come to them, even as ordinary individuals.
Zechariah and Elizabeth would bear a son named John. The last prophet in the OT (Malachi) had been over 400 years ago. God had been silent towards Israel as they wondered about God’s plan of redemption.
Malachi 4:5-6 gives the prophecy and promise: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”
– John would be called great before the Lord
– John would be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb
(The Holy Spirit did not permanently rest upon any individual until this spiritual era)
- A Basis for PRO-LIFE(this is not political but biblical; Bible informs all of life!)
- Baby was planned by God
- Baby had a name – “John”; “Jesus”
- Baby had a purpose to serve from God
- Baby is filled with Holy Spirit and only a PERSON can be filled with Spirit.
- Baby leaps for joy in womb (1:44) and only a PERSON does action
- “Baby” word used of child in womb in Luke 1 is the same word for outside womb in 2:12, 2:16 of baby wrapped, lying in manger; 18:15 baby brought for Jesus to pray over
- TODAY – ultrasound technology displays an unborn person responding to sound, recoiling from pressure and in some cases waving fingers, kicking legs and sucking thumb. At 8 weeks all the organs are present, functioning brain, pumping heart, liver and kidney and there is even a fingerprint. YET, virtually all abortions happen well after 8-week pregnancies.
- Mind boggling, heart wrenching and simply morally wrong
- God does give grace even after such a choice.
– John would turn many children of Israel to the Lord their God
– John would go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn hearts of fathers to children and children to fathers
– John would make ready for the Lord a people prepared [for the coming Messiah]
– Jesus would be great, and will be called Son of the Most High
– Jesus would be given the throne of David, reign forever
– Jesus’ kingdom would never end
These were extraordinary purposes of children of whom the parents were ordinary.
1:28, 30 “favored one”
µ When God gives great favor it requires great faith.
- Zechariah was to name first son “John”, not “Zech Jr.”.
- Zechariah lacked faith and sought academic evidence – “How shall I know this?”
- Mary was to be a virgin yet have a child, bear public shame and eventually give birth in a barn-stable.
- Mary showed faith and sought spiritual explanation – “How shall this be?”
ð God is seeking less talking (complaining) and more trusting (contentment) (Luke 1:20)
ð God’s favor & grace will likely present you with crisis & challenging comfort zones. Are you ready?
µ Parents are ordinary but their calling is extraordinary.
Never underestimate the value, role and responsibility of raising children to know & serve the Lord. Parents have the greatest privilege to raise children and should commit to doing whatever it takes (energy, time, resource, sacrifice) to point them in the direction of faith in God.
GROWING GODLY GENERATIONS – LEAD GENERATIONS in practice
ð Luke showing godly generations:Elizabethis older, Mary is younger yet they worship (1:25; 38)
- Elizabeth’s influence: John obey God even in the face of death from Herod (Mt 11:1-12; 14:1-12)
- Mary’s influence: Jesus would obey God even in the face of death on cross (Luke 22:42)
God can give favor and grace to any ordinary person with extraordinary purposes.
Luke 1:37 “For nothing will be impossible with God.”
God’s grace and promise requires surrender.
Luke 1:38 “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
 Josephus Ant., XV, vii, 8
 Josephus Ant., XVI, xi, 7
 Josephus Ant., XVII, viii, 1
Morris, L. (1988). Vol. 3: Luke: An introduction and commentary. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (85), Electronic.