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  • Becky Carriker

Sunday Sermon, 12/3/2023


This Surprise Changes Everything: Part One

Luke 1:5–25 (ESV) In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 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. 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, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

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.” 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. 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.” 21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. 23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

Luke begins his gospel story with a sketch of the remnant church.

Their right standing (6a) led them to right living (6b). A surprising truth of the real Christmas story.

We must understand that Infertility is an open-ended heartache punctuated by a thousand unseen disappointments.

Being barren was almost always blamed on the woman and was legitimate grounds for divorce.

Luke emphasizes the circumstances in which God delights to work (vv. 7, 18).

God does His most impressive works in a context of impossibility.

Another surprise of Christmas: God tends to begin His finest works in the face of human hopelessness and human weakness. He still does!

Third, Luke shows us what a high regard God holds toward the prayers of His people (vv. 8–17).

The incense symbolized the ascent of Israel’s prayers—note the people were praying out in the court (v. 10).

Elizabeth will bear a son

He is to be named John

He will cause them joy and gladness

Many will rejoice at his birth

He will be great before the Lord

He is not to drink any wine or strong drink his whole life because he is to be consecrated to God

He will be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb

He will turn many in Israel back to God

He will go before the Messiah in the spirit and power of Elijah

He will turn the hearts of fathers to their children

He will turn the disobedient to the wisdom of the just

He will make ready for the Lord a people prepared.

(1) the joy he will bring v. 14

(2) the equipping he will have v. 15and

(3) the difference he will make vv. 16–17.

Luke illustrates how God may turn His rebukes into assurances (vv. 18–23).

Sometimes a negative is also a positive.

If the mute-threat is true, so is the child-promise!

Surprise It really happened. It was crucial to the Christmas, to the Gospel Message.

Second, surprise the Old Testament is important to understanding the New Testament and this story shows beautifully that the New Testament is birthed from the faithful soil of the Old Testament.

The birth of Jesus was promised, planned and prepared by God out of his faithfulness to Israel.

This speaks to God’s character. He is the promise keeper.

Third, Surprise! Luke is showing us there is power in prayer. God hears the prayers of the faithful:

1 PETER 3:12 “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

JAMES 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

LUKE 18:1 “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.”

God is a good God.

God is for us, not against us.

Fourth, Surprise! faithfulness matters.

God meets us on the road to faithfulness.

GALATIANS 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

The surprise of Christmas is If we do the ordinary stuff with an eye to God’s Kingdom and glory, God will do the extraordinary.

Our part is faithfulness.

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