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Second Advent Sermon 2011 Grace Bible Church December 15, 2011

Posted by roberttalley in Angels, Christmas, Luke.

Luke 1:5-25, 57-66

Got any rivers you think are uncrossable;
Got any mountains you cannot tunnel through?
God specializes in things thought impossible;
And He can do what no other power can do.

A. Obstacles are common in our lives. Chuck Swindoll, commenting on this chorus wrote, “If things seem a little difficult today, just wait: they’ll soon be impossible! Uncrossable rivers, untunneled mountains, and impossible circumstances really aren’t unusual. How do you handle them?” (from Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back). This couple faced an uncrossable river. To make matters worse, it was a shameful situation in the minds of some. To have no children was in the mind of some more than a misfortune. It carried the implication that this was a Divine punishment for some secret sin.

i. We should do God’s will even if we see no way to overcome the obstacles (vs. 5-7). Is the situation impossible? Yes! Is the shame unbearable? Perhaps, but doing God’s will is not determined by our circumstances. How did this couple live in this situation?

a. They were righteous: Their righteousness was intended to please God and not men, which was in contrast to most of the religious leaders and many of the people of that day (and this as well).
b. Walking in the commandments and ordinances: This is the actual revealing of their righteous character. They might be accused of legalism today.
c. Blameless: This means that they not only were good in character and that they lived it out before men but also that there had never been an accusation made against them.

This righteous man’s attention was on a rare opportunity. It was probably only once in a lifetime that a priest obtained the lot of going into the sanctuary and burning incense on the golden altar. “It was the great moment of Zacharias’s life…” “Ascending the steps to the Holy Place, the priests spread the coals on the golden altar, and arranged the incense, and the chief operating priest was then left alone within the Holy Place to await the signal of the president to burn the incense. It was probably at this time that the angel appeared to Zacharias” (Vincent). Everyone else’s attention is on him (verse 21). The action of burning the incense should not have taken a long while but it was interrupted by the actions of a prayer answering God.

ii. We, like this couple, should turn to God in prayer because He can overcome the obstacles (vs. 8-13). This couple had probably prayed for years. Whether you feel Zacharias’ prayer was concerning a child or concerning the Messiah, God’s timing and purpose was different from theirs but God was now going to give them the desire of their hearts.

B. When God overcomes obstacles, we are expected to be ready. The attack on Longstop began on December 22 at 11:15 PM. Plans had been made for a big Christmas offensive in North Africa and all was set to go. Longstop, named by the British, was the hill where the attack would begin. The ridge was two miles long and 800 feet high. From its crest, nothing in the valley could move undetected – not a rabbit, not a man, certainly not a tank. It was so rocky, it seemed bony, with powdery soil that covered a climber as flour covers a baker. Although modest in height, the hill had hundreds of secret gullies and dips. The Allies viewed the hill from seven miles away through a telescope. They thought they knew what they were facing but there were two critical errors made. They underestimated the number of Germans on the hill. Instead of a company there was close to a battalion of Germans there, including some of the toughest troops in the whole German army. Worse than that, the hill was actually two hills. To capture one without the other would be deadly and disastrous. If they had looked at their maps or asked troops who had occupied the hill three weeks earlier, they would have known. Instead, the British and Americans attacked unprepared. After twice attacking and taking the lower hill and receiving reinforcements from the French, the Germans attacked on Christmas morning. The Allies fought hard but the battle was lost before the first shot had been fired because the knowledge needed had not been understood. The Germans renamed Longstop. They named it Christmas Hill. It was Easter before the hill was finally taken.

i. We should be ready to obey when God overcomes the obstacles (vs. 13b-15). God did not allow Zacharias to name his son after himself. God also did not allow him to pass on his family calling to John. John would be a Nazarite who never get to fulfill the lofty calling of the priesthood. Zacharias, however, obeyed (vs. 59-63)

ii. We should be ready to believe when God overcomes the obstacles (vs. 18-25).
God uses obstacles in our lives to accomplish His purpose. Although the attention of the people were on the burning of incense, God’s attention is on His plan for the world. God sent an angel and removed a voice to get Zacharias’ attention. It also got the attention of many others. Getting people’s attention is a vital part of God’s plan.

C. God’s purposes go beyond our obstacles and our lives (vs. 16-20).
i. Our worship should go beyond our immediate joy and thanksgiving (vs. 14, see also 67-79). In the book of Luke, rejoicing is often associated with forgiveness of sin. In this verse we find the word twice. Once associated with this couple’s pain and then with the expectations of salvation for the people.

1. Rejoicing is associated with pain. In this case their pain is erased but joy can co-exist with pain. George Matheson penned a hymn while in the throes of a bitter disappointment. He dearly loved a woman whom he wanted to marry. As the romance developed he knew he had to tell her that he was going blind before her love for him went any deeper. To his total surprise, she broke up the relationship. Although he felt something within him had died, the hymn that he wrote was then born in his soul: “I had the impression of having it dictated to me by some inward voice, rather than of working it out myself.” We know it as “O Love that wilt not let me go”. Listen to the third verse,
“O joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain
That morn shall tearless be.

b) Rejoicing is associated with the salvation of God’s people: Zacharias is speaking from a limited Jewish standpoint. This rejoicing, however, is for all people (Luke 2:10). You see, Christmas is not about solving our individual problems but rather about knowing that our individual problems matter in God’s purpose in saving the world.

You’ve heard the message and perhaps you have rejoiced that there is hope for you and forgiveness for your sin. Don’t stop there! Turn to God! Trust Christ! He died to forgive you but the forgiveness is only available if you turn to Him and to Him alone for salvation.

If you are facing an obstacle in your life, God may want to do more than just test your character. He may want to use that obstacle to reach someone else for Christ. This Christmas season, you will have opportunities to witness, that you won’t have the rest of the year. Some of those opportunities will be associated with painful obstacles. Yet, you will be able to get people to come to church with you, who normally would not come. Are you going to use those opportunities?



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