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Archive for January, 2016

Message at the Baptism of Our Lord

January 22, 2016 Leave a comment
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Message at New Year

January 20, 2016 Leave a comment
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Message at Christmas

January 20, 2016 Leave a comment
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Sermon for Advent 4 Midweek – Luke 1:57-60

January 20, 2016 Leave a comment

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Visitation_belles_heures The theme of ch 1 is fulfillment. From the beginning of the chapter and Gabriel’s announcement to Zechariah that Elizabeth would have a child in her old age to six months later and even more shocking news that Mary would conceive by the Holy Spirit and bear Jesus, God is keeping His promises, not just to Zechariah and Elizabeth but to Israel. Remember the grammar lesson from the Magnificat? We have the same lesson here in Zechariah’s song. God has visited and redeemed his people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us. God brings his fulfillment.

And so Elizabeth gives birth to John and the fullness of God’s time is coming to fruition.

Elizabeth’s whole village celebrated with her at the birth of John, rejoicing only at the smaller miracle that she could conceive and give birth in her old age unaware of the full magnitude of who this was foretold by the Lord’s messenger, Gabriel, and now named before them as John, literally, Yahweh has shown favor. God faithfully keeps His promises by sending one like Elijah to prepare His people.

This is God’s MO [modus operandi]. He started creating a people for Himself with Abraham and Sarah. It comes full circle with Zechariah and Elizabeth. Nothing is impossible with God! He is worthy of praise for His goodness and blessing.

And now that John is named as Gabriel ordered, Zechariah’s tongue is once again loosed and the first words out of his mouth are this song of praise, the Benedictus. Mary’s Magnificat is the first of the great songs with Zechariah’s song being its compliment. And just as Mary’s song was sung each evening in churches and chapels for 1,500 years, so also Zechariah’s song was sung each morning. Evening and morning, the people of God remembered the mighty work of God to enter humanity and rescue it from bondage to sin. God is faithful.

If we are to be like Mary and Zechariah and join our songs to theirs, we need to do more than just match their pitch and sing out the lyrics given them by the Holy Spirit. We need to see the world as they saw it and see God acting in it as they saw Him.

They sang of a world that was fundamentally broken. The poor suffered and were oppressed by the rich. A foreign people occupied the land and ruled over it politically, legally, and culturally. Disease was rampant. Disorders were the norm. Even the preaching of the Word of God was corrupt as the sacrifices were offered in a temple remodeled by an unbeliever to make his own name great rather than glorify God.

A few centuries back there had been some who rebelled against the occupiers of that day. The stories of the Maccabean revolts were still whispered. There were rumors that a new group was preparing to act and drive the Romans out as the Seleucids had been. But the Romans were no Seleucids. They had made the Great Herod’s son a puppet king and so bought themselves the tacit support of the elites and ruling class. So, for the ordinary Judean, the kingdom promised long ago to David was far from reality. Any change looked impossible.

And yet the impossible had happened. Elizabeth has conceived. And even more impossible, Mary has conceived. There is hope in the midst of the ongoing agony of the people of God. His name is John, the Lord has shown favor. And so Zechariah sings that God has visited His people just like He promised He would to save us from our enemies, to show the mercy promised to Abraham on oath. He is seeing with his own eyes the fulfillment of God’s long awaited promises.

And John’s birth was but the beginning. He was but the forerunner. He was not the light but came to bear witness about the light. Through Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection, we are bold to hope for an even more wonderful fulfillment of divine promises.

If everything’s going well for you, if you’re someone who believes any of the current crop of politicians can truly make America great again, then you don’t need Zechariah’s hope.  But for the rest of us, is this not the song of hope for each of us plagued with doubt, guilt, disease, general hopelessness of our country and planet?

Blessed are You, O Lord, the God of Israel, for You have visited and redeemed Your people and raised up a horn of salvation for us. You have assured us that our final day of salvation will someday be completed, when Christ returns. Therefore, come, Lord Jesus. Come quickly! Amen.

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