Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, December 23, 2012
The Baby Leaped - December 23, 2012 - Fourth Sunday in Advent - Text: Luke 1:39-45 (46-55)
Today is the last Sunday in Advent. We have lighted the last of the four candles around the advent wreath. All that is left to light is the center candle, the Christ candle. We have only one more day to go and tomorrow night on Christmas Eve we will light the Christ candle, recognizing and celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Again this year, as we do every year, we have spent Advent getting ready for Jesus’ coming. We have spent our time with a dual purpose in mind. First, we have been getting our hearts and minds ready to celebrate Jesus’ birth, so long ago, in Bethlehem. And second, we have been getting ourselves, our hearts and our minds, ready for Jesus’ second coming, when He will come to take us from this earth to be with Himself in heaven. Someone once asked me why God did not tell us when He would return. My answer to them and to us is that, if God had told us when He was going to return then we would probably either waste our time worrying about and dreading that day or we would waste our time in frivolous and sinful living until right before the expected day and think that would be enough time to get ready. God does not tell us when He will return because He wants us to understand the need to be ready and the work which goes into getting ready and keeping ready. Furthermore, we are reminded of the importance of getting ready and keeping ready because our lives depend on it. To not be ready is to live in unbelief and to live in unbelief ultimately means eternal spiritual death.
We have been getting ourselves ready by looking at the first promises which were made by God and seeing how He has fulfilled those promises, so that we can be sure that in the same way He will keep the promise He made to return. The promises we have seen fulfilled include those of the appearance of the angel to Zechariah in the temple where he promised Zechariah that his wife Elisabeth would conceive and bear a son and that this son would be the way preparer for the Messiah. And she did conceive.
We continued to get ourselves ready as we saw the angel appear before Mary and promised her that she would be the mother of God. And by the power of the Holy Spirit she did conceive. The promises God had made so many years ago; the promises which God reiterated throughout the Old Testament; these promises were beginning to be fulfilled. We can rest assured that God’s Word does what it says. If God says it, it will happen, not necessarily when we might expect or think or imagine, but when it pleases Him, according to what He knows best, according to His good and gracious will.
In our text for this morning we go with Mary as she makes haste to her cousin Elisabeth’s house. Luke tells us that at Mary’s word of greeting, the baby, John the Baptist, leaps in Elisabeth’s womb. Remember, Elisabeth is about twenty-four weeks further along in her pregnancy than Mary. Certainly we recognize God’s hand in these two children and in the fact that even from the womb John the Baptist knows his place before the King of kings.
I find it interesting that here in this passage we have an acknowledgment from God that life begins at conception. The word which Luke uses for the baby in the womb is the same word he uses for the baby when it is outside the womb. In God’s eyes, a baby is a baby, is a baby. A baby is a person, beginning with conception. At conception, each one of us is given a body and a soul and we are living human beings. At conception we are each one an individual person and special in God’s eyes and in His plan for us.
Even Elisabeth acknowledges the power of God as she exclaims to Mary, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” With humble excitement Elisabeth welcomes the mother of the Savior of the world and her own Savior. And notice her words of faith, “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
Mary’s response was also a response of faith. At Elisabeth’s greeting, Mary bursts out in song and praises God because of His honoring her humble estate. Mary knows and, although she may not fully understand her role as the Lord’s servant, she humbly accepts her part in God’s plan.
Mary praises God because of His mercy which reaches to all generations, through this child she is carrying. I sometimes wonder if Mary understood these most profound words she was saying. This child she would deliver was the Messiah, the Savior, promised so many years ago. This child would not only save the people who had gone on before Him, He would not only save those of His generation, He would also save those who would come after Him. He would save all generations. He would save you and me. By faith in Jesus we are ready for Christ’s return. By faith in Jesus we have life.
Mary goes on to acknowledge God’s power and His hand in all of life. Our God is not a God who is a far off, He is also a God who is near, who is right here, He is everywhere present at all times. He is with us when we are happy or sad, when we are lonely or comforted, when we are blessing Him and when we are sinning. Our God is a God who is always with us in all circumstances of life.
And Mary praises God for keeping His promises. The promise God made so long ago in the Garden of Eden. The promise God reiterated throughout time. The promise God made to Mary to be the mother of Jesus, all these promises, all the promises of God were coming to fulfillment. And how confident we can be because, as God has kept all His promises, so we know that He will keep His promise to return.
As we approach the end of this Advent Season we acknowledge God’s promises and His fulfillment. The last half of the Church year is the Season of Pentecost. Maybe you noticed, the season of Pentecost, from the first Sunday after Pentecost until something like the twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost has the color Green to symbolize growth. It is especially during that time of the year that we are to grow in our faith. As we grow in our faith we are continually shown God’s promises and His fulfillment of those promises in the life of His Son. The last three Sundays of the Church Year we focused our attention of the second coming of Jesus. We were reminded of our need to get ready, to be ready and to stay ready for our time to meet Jesus. We were reminded that to not be ready could, ultimately mean eternal spiritual death and separation from Jesus, which is hell. Three Sundays ago, December 2, we began a new Church Year. The Church Year begins with Advent which is the time we use to get ourselves ready to celebrate Jesus’ first coming, as a baby in a manger in the town of Bethlehem. Advent brings one more reminder that God does what He says. God promised to send a Savior and He kept that promise. If God says it, we know it will happen.
Through the year we also have the constant reminder of our part in all of God’s planning and promises. It was and is for us that God did what He did. It was because of Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden and it is because of our sins, that we daily sin much and are in need of forgiveness, that God made His first promise, to send a Savior, someone who would take care of our sin for us. We may not like to think about it or talk about it, but our Christmas celebration, our celebration of the birthday of Jesus in just two days is always in the shadow of the cross. The reason the baby was born was to suffer and die in order to pay the price for our sins. And thanks be to God that He did so.
Advent is the time we acknowledge God’s power and that with God, nothing is impossible. So many promises, so many prophecies. The likelihood that one person would fulfill all those prophecies is beyond imagination and yet, that is what Jesus did. He came, true God, in human flesh and He fulfilled every single prophecy which God had made. Through His many signs and wonders, through the miracles He performed, He continually showed Himself to be the Messiah and then He gave His life for ours.
That is why, during Advent we acknowledge Christ as our Savior and King. He is the one promised of old. He is the Great I AM. He is God in human flesh. He is the one who came to give His life for ours. He is your Savior and mine.
We have watched as we lit the first Advent candle, the Prophecy Candle, or the Promise Candle as I call it, and were reminded of God’s promise to send a Savior. We watched the second candle being lit and were reminded that it was in Bethlehem that God would fulfill His promise. We watched as the third candle was lit and were reminded of the shepherds out in the fields keeping watch over their flocks by night. This morning we see the fourth candle lit and we remember the angels who were quite busy during that first Christmas season, announcing the birth of John the Baptist and the birth of Jesus. The excitement is mounting as we have just two days to wait and as we look forward even to that evening when we will celebrate the birth of our Savior, Christ the Lord. May the Lord keep you steadfast in your faith so that ultimately we may be found in faith and inherit eternal life. To God be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.