Sunday December 21, 2014
"Anticipating Christmas," By Christopher Loy
1. Sermon Title: "Anticipating Christmas"
2. Text: Luke 1:68-79
3. Subject: Christmas, Anticipation, Gospel
4. ETS: Zechariah, upon the birth of his son John, praises God for the work He has done in the past, what He is doing in the present, and what He will do in the Messiah. We can properly anticipate and celebrate Christmas by looking to the past work of God, the present activity of God, and the future promises of Jesus' return.
5. OSS: Hearers will realize that Christmas is a season of anticipation culminating in a celebration of praise for the miracle of God's work on Christmas, Calvary, and the hope to come in Revelation.
B. Formal Elements
Christmas morning will be upon us in 11 days. Is anyone excited for Christmas? Christmas is an exciting season, but why is it so exciting? The season is structured in such a way that we spend weeks (in the case of my mother, months) thinking about and buying gifts that our loved ones will enjoy, we then think ahead towards the day when we will see our their faces light up with happiness at the gifts they receive, and we finally know what things people have gotten us. We get to experience the joy of giving, as well as the gift of receiving gifts after at least a month of anticipation.
Christmas morning is so exciting because we have an excited anticipation of that event until it finally arrives and we experience the joy of that morning. Christmas morning would not be so joyful if we were not excited for it.
We should look at the Biblical Christmas in the same way that we look at our secular Christmas. We should anticipate the joyous occasion of our Lord's Incarnation in the same way that we anticipate giving and receiving gifts on Christmas morning.
We can do this by discovering three elements of anticipation in the response of Zechariah to the birth of his son in Luke 1:67-79.
Zechariah was an older priest, he and his wife were without children. Gabriel the angel appeared to Zechariah in the Temple when it was his turn to burn incense before the Lord. Gabriel told him that he would have a child, when Zechariah asked how he could know this, Gabriel shut his mouth. Zechariah could not speak until it was time for his son to be born. After John was born, on the eighth day, when it came time to circumcise and name him, everyone asked if he would be named after his father. Zechariah took a tablet and wrote HIS NAME IS JOHN. Then he was allowed to speak again.
After 9 months of silence, Zechariah spoke, the anticipation of waiting for the birth of his son culminated in a burst of praise from Zechariah, as well as further anticipation of the promises of God that would be fulfilled through his newborn son, the son whose job it was to prepare the way for the Messiah.
4. Read Luke 1:67-79
How do we properly anticipate and appreciate the real reason for the season, the birth of Jesus our Lord?
First we will look at the three elements of anticipation in Zechariah's prophecy, then we will apply it to Christmas.
Remember what God has done in the past
(69-73a) Zechariah recaps what God has done and promised to Abraham and what He promised through the prophets.
It is through the past action of God in bringing His people out of exile, promising them a new covenant, and promising them a messiah who would lead them back into right standing with God, that God has created the present situation in which the Messiah is coming soon.
Remembering what God has done in the past helps us to have a proper perspective of our present. Anticipation of Christmas hinges on the memories of the excitement of past Christmases, remembering what God has done through the Christmas event can help us to build excitement for the Christmas season, culminating in a joyous celebration on Christmas morning.
Recognize God's action in the present
(73b-75) Zechariah seeing God's sovereignty in the present.
He here realizes that God has shown mercy on the Jews by bringing them out of exile, allowing them to rebuild the Temple, and giving them enough autonomy to worship God without oppression.
He realizes God's action in the present by seeing the bigger picture of what God has done in the past to create the present situation. We must recognize that God has shaped the past to get us to the present, and he will always shape our future.
Recognizing God's action in the present helps us to build anticipation for Christmas by seeing that God is still active and in control, and that the plan He implemented on Christmas morning continues today.
Anticipate the future God has promised.
(76-79) Zechariah recalls the message of the angel, the prophets, and his own prophetic song here about what God will do through his son and through the Messiah he anticipates.
When we look forward to Christmas morning with anticipation, we should be looking forward to celebrating God's work in redeeming mankind, starting with the birth of a baby boy. Since that event is in the past for us, we should look forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus as well as celebrating His return and the hope for a new world He promises.
Applied to Christmas
Christmas is hard to anticipate if we try to do it the same way Zechariah did. It is difficult to anticipate since it includes the past looking to a "present" that is, for us, in the past, then looking to a "future" that is, for us, in the past, then to the ultimate future.
There are two ways we should anticipate Christmas that make sense of this, as well as give us a fuller and more significant excitement for the season and what it means.
We should anticipate Christmas As if We Were There
Past: Promise of the Messiah
Present: Birth of the Messiah
Future: Redemption of God's people from sin and death.
We should anticipate Christmas As Post Crucifixion/Resurrection Christians
Past: The Birth of Jesus, His life and ministry, His death in our place, His victory over death.
Present: The work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, His plan for our lives, our desperate need for Him.
Future: The promise that Jesus, our Messiah, will return, the resurrection at the end and our future life with God.
God promises us that we will live with Him. There will be no more sickness, no more death, no more pain, no more darkness, no fear, no more hunger, no more sin or the curse it brings. We will dwell with the glorious, holy, merciful, just, and loving God forever.
Christmas is exciting, it is the beginning of the work of our Lord and Savior, it is the miracle of God's love, and the event of history that is the grounding of our future hope.
Christmas looks to the cross and the empty tomb. Christmas is the beginning of the act that God took to redeem His creatures. Jesus went to the cross for our sins and died in our place, but first He had to be born of a virgin and live among us. The empty tomb that Christmas looks toward promises the same thing that Christmas celebrates in the birth of Jesus, NEW LIFE!
Christmas looks forward to God's new world. Through the work of the newborn Messiah, our redemption and future hope are assured.
We should anticipate Christmas in light of the person and work of Jesus. He came and lived among us, taught us what it meant to love God, how to live, healed our wounds, took on our sufferings, wept with us, then died in our place so that we may have life and be reconciled to the Father.
If so much about what I'm saying about the hope of Christmas has to do with things we talk about during Easter, why not skip Christmas and celebrate Easter?
Christmas celebrates the miracle of God's mercy in taking on flesh, dwelling with us, teaching and healing us, and dying in our place. Christmas celebrates with hopeful anticipation the future work of Jesus in light of the past, beginning with the excitement and hope of the newborn Jesus.
We should get excited about Christmas because it is a day of promises fulfilled, hope for the future work of God, and the starting point of our faith.
Christmas is much more than Santa and presents. It is forgiveness for sinners, healing for the sick, hope for the poor, peace for the restless, mercy for the merciless, redemption for Jew and Gentile.
The response of anticipation, when Christmas comes, is praise for our God. Zechariah praised God for what He was going to do in the future Messiah. We can praise God using the same words for God's work in Jesus, and the future to come when He returns.
Read Luke 1:78-79