December 17, 2023
Welcome to our Jesus-centered community. We are glad you are listening to today’s message.
“We are People Helping People Experience a Jesus-centered Life.”
Today we unpack the Gospel of Luke Chapter 1 and the story of Elizabeth and Zachariah. We learn how the impossible becomes possible when an old married couple beyond their years of childbearing finds themselves pregnant with the great John the Baptist.
A lot has changed in 2,000 years, but a lot hasn’t. We generally avoid the word “barren” today, but the shame remains. Not only for men and women without children. For men and women who remain unmarried into their 30s, 40s, and 50s. For people who struggle, day after painful day, with chronic illness. For everyone who senses that they aren’t living up to their purpose, that their lives are meaningless, and question why they are still alive.
Many of us can relate to Elizabeth. We feel like something should be different in our world or our hearts. So we stand before God with bitterness (God, what have you done?), guilt (God, what have I done?), shame (God, what’s wrong with me?), or all three. Waiting on God’s presence, we find it hard to hope for good news.
Our text today shows that God chose the unlikely couple of Elizabeth and Zechariah to begin telling the story of Christmas. The good news of God’s presence, the story of Jesus’ birth, starts in a most unexpected place—in the womb of a barren woman (Luke 1:7). The very place of Elizabeth’s deepest pain becomes the place God chooses to work, not despite her barrenness, but because of it. Friends, this is evidence that God can miraculously show up in our pain and suffering. God seems to show at what appears to be the most inopportune times and the most unpredictable places. Amen!
For centuries, God’s people had been waiting for God to come near to them in a special way. Again, Let me say, “FOR CENTURIES, people were waiting to hear from God.” To take away their sorrow and replace it with joy. To take away their sin and replace it with forgiveness. To take away the barrenness of death and replace it with abundant life.
And so, God begins with Elizabeth. The life within her acts as a promise of everything God was about to do (Luke 1:14–17). She would receive, in part, what God intended to bring to all of humanity—wholeness, healing, joy. Elizabeth would not be the one to bring God into the world ut her miracle baby would prepare the way for him (Luke 1:17). The waiting time was over. As the late great Tom Petty used to sing, “The waiting is the hardest part.”
But Zechariah, Elizabeth’s husband, still finds this difficult to believe. Perhaps after so many decades of waiting, he had lost the heart to keep hoping. So when the angel Gabriel tells Zechariah about Elizabeth’s upcoming pregnancy, Zechariah balks. “I am an old man,” he said, “and my wife is advanced in years” (Luke 1:18). Gabriel, in a twist of amusing irony, decides to help Zechariah listen a little better the next time around. He imposes nine months of muteness on Zechariah (Luke 1:19–20). As Dr. Evil in Austin Powers told his staff, “Shhhh.” “Knock, Knock.” “Who’s there?” “Shhhhh.” “Let me tell you about a man named “Shhh.”
Zechariah most likely already knew the biblical stories of God giving children to previously barren women (After all, God had done it with every one of the patriarchs—Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel!). But there is a difference between knowing God’s promise intellectually and waiting on God’s promise personally. Zechariah had waited for a child all his life. But those final nine months of waiting were the most profound: He learned to hope again in those nine months.
And when John was finally born, Zechariah erupted in praise for all God had done—and would do (Luke 1:68–79). Through this son—and ultimately through Jesus—God would provide for his people redemption (Luke 1:68), mercy (1:72), and forgiveness (1:77), not only to Israel but to all the nations of the earth (1:79).
I how all us stay committed to following a Jesus-looking God and helping as many people as possible experience a Jesus-centered life. If we do, we will experience the Holy Spirit’s presence, translated as Emmanuel, God with us.
Before you listen to the message, you are encouraged to go to our website and download the lesson bulletin for this message, dated December 10, 2023. The publication contains questions to reflect on as an individual, couple, or small group. You can find them on the home page by clicking the Bulletins and Lesson Plans tab. Today’s message is “Waiting on God’s Presence.”
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