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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Sermon 11282012 Mid-Week Advent 1

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

Let us pray!  Almighty God our Heavenly Father, as we enter the Advent season, prepare our hearts for the entrance of Your Son and our Savior Jesus Christ.  The prophets foretold of His coming and we have heard the stories, but let our receipt of the story this year overcome us and grip us so we may embrace not only the story, but our Savior with new found passion and expectation.  We ask this trusting in the grace offered to all the characters of Advent, but especially Zacharias who speaks to us tonight for all of us saints here at Emmanuel.  AMEN.

Recently we were in Colorado Springs visiting my brother and his family. My niece Abigail and her brother Ethan are great cousins, because they play with Sarah and treat her not only like part of the family, but as a big kid.  Well, Abigail’s room is on the top floor and I wanted to go and see what Sarah, Abigail and Ethan were getting into.  From the other side of the door, I could hear Sarah talking, so I quietly snuck up to the door and began to open it.  As soon as I had started pushing the door Sarah heard it and came to see what was happening with the door.  No sooner had I started to open it then she popped her head around it and I said, ‘boo’.  From the look in her eyes I could tell, she was not only startled, but gripped, not by fear, because she recognized me, but that innocent joy that children have.

This evening, unlike Sarah, we hear of a man named Zacharias.  He was not just a priest, but a man who would hear a promise made to him and his wife.  While completing his priestly duties around the altar of the Lord, “an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense.”  In Zacharias day and age, it was uncommon for angels to appear unless they had a specific purpose to fulfill given to them by God.  So at this time, “12 Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him.”  Not like Sarah who knew her father by sight, Zacharias was fearful, because he did not recognize the angel of the Lord.

The angel spoke clearly and directly to the fear Zacharias felt saying, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John.”  This is the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation of mankind.  God through His holy angel is telling Zacharias that not only has God heard his petition, God is fulfilling His prayerful desire for his wife Elizabeth and him.

John, his son, who will be born to him and Elizabeth, “will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God.”  This promise of John’s birth is not just a fulfillment of a promise, but has a purpose ordained by God.  The angel continues about John, “17 It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.””  John has his work cut out for him, John will come before the promised Messiah to turn the heart of man and prepare the people for the Lord.  That is his job, his calling and his purpose.

But of what consequence is that for us today this Advent 2012?  You see Zacharias for some is an inconsequential character, but for us today he models clearly that God can, does and will answer our prayers.  When our desires and prayers are for God’s glory, God reveals to us not only His foreknowledge of what would occur, but how God reveals and makes happen the plans for all of humanity of what His Son and our Savior Jesus Christ would fulfill with His birth in Bethlehem.  John was not only a ‘forerunner’, but a ‘banner bearer’ of Jesus Christ.  John’s birth was to come before Jesus and prepare the people for the message of salvation that they would hear, see and experience in Jesus Christ.  Just as farmers prepare the soil for planting the winter wheat, spring corn or any crop, John came to prepare the soil of our hearts for the coming of the Savior.  And here and now Zacharias was the recipient of the promise made to him by the angel of the Lord.  Hence we tonight, who have heard this message again, can begin to break the dry dusty ground of our hearts and prepare our hearts, souls and spirits for the coming of the Messiah for all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this evening, just as  Zacharias heart was opened to the fulfillment of his petition.  This is the promise through Zacharias that we are a part of because of our baptism into Jesus Christ birth for all of us saints gathered here this evening.  AMEN.
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