Preparing for Christmas

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John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus. He was sent to help prepare the hearts of mankind for the coming Messiah.
His birth and ministry teaches us about our own need for a Savior.
I want to start by providing you a little context into the life and heritage of John the Baptist.
I. Her was the son of a priest. His father was Zachariah who was a priest.
The Bible says that both the father and mother (Elizabeth), were Godly people. However, they where both elderly and probably did not live to raise John.
Matthew 3:1 NKJV
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea,
There are some that say he grew up in the wilderness near the Jordan river and was raised by a group known as the Essenes. While others say that He may have been raised in the Wilderness of Qumran.
However, these are all speculation and there is no direct evidence that He was raised by anyone other than his parents.
Luke 1:17 NKJV
He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
There is some symbolism of John and the prophets. Like Elijah he cam out of the wilderness.
Like Samuel He grew in the Lord.
1 Samuel 2:26 NKJV
And the child Samuel grew in stature, and in favor both with the Lord and men.
Luke 1:80 NKJV
So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel.
John was unique in that he preached in the wilderness and expected others to come hear him.
To say the least he was a unique character. He is not the individual one would expect to be the herald of the king of kings.
Johns story is one of mystery, heartache, tribulation, and great power.
This morning lest us look at his birth and see what gave such importance that it was included with the birth of Christ.

I. A Families prayer.

Luke 1:13 NKJV
But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.
In this passage we see a mothers grief. Elizabeth was shamed in her own heart. It is very possible, and even probable, that Elizabeth had prayed for a child. However, the Bible says that it was the prayer of Zachariah that was heard. This may be symbolic for the prayers of both of them, but, we do know that Zachariah prayed.
Job 42:10 NKJV
And the Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.
James 5:16 NKJV
Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
It is know surprise that the forerunner of the Messiah was birthed in prayer. The nation of Israel had prayed for two thousand years for the Messiah, but a father prayed for a lifetime. Even when a wife had given up hope and a father was destitute of faith, God heard their prayers.

II. A mothers joy.

Elisabeth was an older lady. Here we see that Mary (A young girl) was pregnant with Jesus and Elizabeth was not jealous. Rather, she magnified the Lord for His blessings.
Luke 1:42–43 NKJV
Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
Sometimes it is difficult to rejoice for others. Especially when we are feeling deprived, neglected, and without value. We can quickly become bitter and broken when others receive the blessings that we desire or blessing that we perceive are greater than ours. However, Elizabeth does not become angry that God has blessed Mary with birthing the Messiah. Instead, she rejoices in Mary’s good fortune, and praised God’s for His blessing sin her life.
1 Timothy 6:6 NKJV
Now godliness with contentment is great gain.
Philippians 4:11 NKJV
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:

III. A Fathers speech

Zachariah had been unable to speak since the announcement of John’s birth.
Luke 1:18–20 NKJV
And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.” And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.”
Luke 1:59–64 NKJV
So it was, on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him by the name of his father, Zacharias. His mother answered and said, “No; he shall be called John.” But they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name.” So they made signs to his father—what he would have him called. And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, “His name is John.” So they all marveled. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God.
We see that traditions were broken.
My name is Terry R Ellis Jr. I bare the name of my father. This is common in modern society. However, it was expected in biblical times. A child would be named after the father or a close relative. Yet, with John, there was no one in the family by that name.
However, it was the will of God that the child be called John and God’s will always trumps tradition.
In an act of obedience, Zachariah proclaimed that the babies name was John.
Like always, God kept His word and at that moment his mouth was opened and he could speak. What we see next is the record of his prophecy.

A. A message of salvation

Luke 1:68–69 NKJV
“Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people, And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of His servant David,

B. A message of Mercy

Luke 1:72 NKJV
To perform the mercy promised to our fathers And to remember His holy covenant,

C. A message of blessing

Luke 1:76–79 NKJV
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, To give knowledge of salvation to His people By the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God, With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.”
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