NORTH MAIN SERMON DEC 3, 2023
Luke 1: 1-27 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled[a] among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold
5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”
21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”
The Birth of Jesus Foretold
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary…………
And so the story begins ..Jerusalem was built on a hill, so no matter which direction you approached, you were going up. And since true worship could only happen in the temple, let us go up to worship is the description of the approach. The season of Advent isn’t really designed to be a countdown to the celebration of Christmas. It is a time of preparation for Christ’s return and the establishment of the kin-dom of God. It is a reminder that we are heading someplace; we are works in progress; we are longing for something more. That’s the upward call of Advent. And we look forward to when Emmanuel – God with us – will be how we live always. This is not a blind joy or a joy that neglects the brokenness and the need that surrounds us. If anything, it opens our eyes to what is really happening in the world and in us. It calls us back to a sense of watchful waiting for signs of God’s kingdom breaking out in surprising places, at unexpected times, among people we might not have chosen. We remember Christmas, the real depth and power of this singular act and the child who lived God’s presence among us, something that even the worst of the commercialism cannot ultimately overcome. We can also be surprised at how something pure and wonderful can appear in the most unlikely places, from the most unlikely sources to remind us that we are all longing for something more, something of eternity and of the beloved community described by the one whose birth we celebrate. Advent is a journey upward to praise and restoration. Let us move forward with joy..
How Did We Come to Advent as a Season?
We really don’t know when and where Advent began to be observed, but the first faint traces of Advent emerge in popular customs in various places by early fourth century. The expectation of the celebration of the birth of Christ was the central theme. there are four Sundays of Advent, which we now celebrate. And so .. the Gloria became known .. "Glory to God in the highest and peace to God’s people on earth. This makes some interesting times.. every few years the fourth Sunday of Advent falls on December 24. And this is one of those years. On such days, the church gathers for worship on the fourth Sunday of Advent in the morning; then it gathers again after sunset to celebrate Christmas Eve. So here we are today. The first Sunday of Advent... We have just come from the Thanksgiving Celebrations and are now called to enter Advent with little preparation. We are not ready. Are we ever? We have not considered our spiritual dilemma. Left to our own devices we move easily and quickly from light into darkness and so we need Advent more than ever. Today we need to look for signs that God is active in our world, present with us. We are called to be ready to receive something life-changing, something wholly new. As we begin this season of Advent we need to be reminded again that in the midst of our darkness you are bringing us peace, to calm our anxious spirits and hectic lives.
As the days grow darker, we draw closer to the arrival of the Light that turns the world upside down! The journey toward and beyond the manger is one of encountering what we thought we already knew in brand new ways, and receiving good news in unexpected places as our spirit waits to welcome the Christ child and carry hope, peace, joy, and love as we live as disciples in today’s World. Today we welcome new opportunities to know that we are people of hope just like the people 2,000 years ago. This is where our historical observance comes in. This is where telling the story becomes so important. Not just so that we can look back with a sigh and long for the good old days, not so that we can wistfully wish for the blessing that they had back in the day, but to pay attention to what is and what might be, not simply to look back at what was. The people of God were in exile; the foundations of their nation had been shaken; their comforts were taken from them. The human institutions that they had constructed no longer held the security that they had begun to take for granted. So, they began to look elsewhere, and they realized that their faith was shaky as well. They needed something new. They needed a hope that shocked them. And so we use Advent as a prayer, as a reminder to hope.That is the call of Jesus in our Gospel passage for the week. It is a call to hope. A hope that startles, that shakes us to the core if we’re thinking about it. . There is much to do and a deadline to meet. But at the same time, we hear the promise that the master is near. Not as a threat, but as a promise. We are not alone. The baby that changed the world is with us.. History is divided into two parts: before Christ and after Christ. Even our calendars reflect this .. The coming of Jesus to Earth was the hinge on which the door of history swung. He transformed the world by offering redemption to us—He was the only person who ever left the world fundamentally changed. Two thousand more years later He continues to change it one heart at a time.