Christmas Pre-requisites

Christmas  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  24:01
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What do you need to do to get ready for Christmas?
Mountains of shopping?
Get the Christmas lights up?
Make sure the car is serviced for the road trip?
As I experienced the other day trying to drive through town, there is a flurry of activity as people rush this way and that to prepare. To make sure everything is just right for the coming celebrations!
It’s Christmas. We’re celebrating Christmas. But what is that? Why celebrate it?
Hollywood has been churning out Christmas movies for years now each with some moral about finding the Christmas spirit in your heart. It’s a heartwarming bit of fun, but it’s all malarkey right?
We’re all sensible enough Aussies who don’t fall for that guff.
But we do know that there is something worth celebrating. Even if we can’t name it.
There is something worth preparing for.
Now some of y’all are sitting back in your seats going <cross arms> “Christmas is a made up holiday, Jesus wasn’t born on Dec 25... It’s a reinvented pagan holiday… it’s all too commercialized…”
And… you would be right - but I’m still going to make the case there’s something worth celebrating, and it’s worth preparing for.
Whether it’s the 25th of December or some other day, It’s good to celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ!
The birth of Jesus Christ is one of the most significant events in human history, and we do well to set aside time to remember and celebrate God’s salvation coming to humanity. Historically we have reserved the 25th Dec for that purpose, and it’s a good a day as any!
But that’s next week. This morning, we’re taking some time to build up to it. We’re getting some preliminaries down-pat. We’re laying the groundwork.
We’re looking at the prophecy of Zechariah the priest who stood on the precipice of the messianic age.
He saw the unfolding of God’s plan. God had been laying the groundwork for thousands of years, and now, Zechariah was about to see God’s salvation revealed!
We’re hanging out in this prophecy to prepare our hearts and minds to celebrate well next week.
The anticipation helps us value the fulfillment all the more!
So there are only two main thrusts to cover in this passage, but both will help prepare us to receive Christ, our Lord made flesh.
The first main thrust is:

Remember God’s Promises (v67-75)

We read the preamble to Zechariah’s prophecy to give some of the context around it. Many of you would be familiar with this story as you have heard the Christmas story over the years, but lets summarize briefly if you had forgot, or perhaps this is new information to you.
In ancient History, God had chosen a man named Abraham, to use him to bless all the nations of the world.
His descendants would be a special people that God would love and care for - Israel. Not the modern state of Israel, the ancient ethnic-tribal entity.
God entered into a loving relationship with Abraham and his descendants - a covenant. God promised to protect them, and care for them and bless them. But he also laid down healthy boundaries for them. They had to be faithful and
They rebelled.
God gave them fair consequences.
But God promised that would not be the end - that despite their unfaithfulness, God would still take them back and restore them. God promised a king, descended from the great King David would rule over God’s people and restore their fortunes. And before that day, there would be someone who came to prepare the way.
After years and years and years of waiting, the remainder of God’s people still hadn’t seen this promise fulfilled.
Seemingly out of nowhere God appeared to the priest Zechariah somewhere in the vicinity of 1BC.
Zech was performing his duties at the temple and and angel appear to tell him that even though Zech & his wife Eliz. we both older, the would have a child.
Zech was gobsmacked, and in disbelief.
Then the angel made him mute. He couldn’t talk!
But after the angel left, the angels’ message came true!
Zech and Eliz. fell pregnant and eventually Eliz gave birth.
When Zech. told everyone that the child’s name would be “John”, Zech’s mouth was opened and he could speak again!
So he did the best thing he could with his voice, he raised praises to God!
Filled with the HS he prophesied, looking back on God’s promises, and forward to their fulfillment!
Lets look:
Luke 1:67–69 NIV
His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David
Lit. “Blessed be...” (fun fact, known as the “benedictus”)
Zech. saw the arrival of his son John as part of God’s plan to rescue God’s people Israel. They have been lost, but God is coming to redeem.
This is why they praise God, because of his redemption.
Raised up a horn - a a sign of strength and power, in David’s house - the royal line from Which the messiah comes!
Luke 1:70–75 NIV
(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us— to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
Zech was remembering the prophecies of old. God was fulfilling them!
He knew the predicament that the people were in - oppressed, weak and barely hanging on. We’ve seen in Daniel what the Jews went through in the time leading up to Jesus birth, including the awful activities of Antiochus Epiphanes.
Zech acutely felt the desire to be rescued from their enemies - and God would provide a greater rescue than just deliverance from the Romans. He was bringing an eternal rescue.
God was going to free His people from their shackles so that they could serve God properly - they were perpetually failing because of sin and circumstances - but God was going to overcome those issues so they could live to the fullness of their potential.
This is not just good news for Israel - it is good news for us.
We’re in a terrible predicament - outside God’s love, sinners, oppressed by death.
God was fulfilling his promise to Abraham to bless the nations of the world by extending his covenant Love to anyone who will come in. We can be recipients of mercy and salvation.
As we approach a re-celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth, remember that it is the answer to God’s promise to bless the world...
Zech was starting to see this plan unfold, and now in his prophesy, he moves from reflecting on God’s grand plans and promises to prophesy what part his son John has in all this.
John was the advance party. He would go ahead to help people Prepare to Receive Salvation. And that’s the second big thrust in this passage”

Prepare to Receive Salvation (76-79)

John was to be a prophet of God. He would turn out to be the last of the “capital-P” prophets. He was a herald of God’s coming.
Let that sink in a bit. John going to prepare people for God to come!
Lets look:
Luke 1:76 NIV
And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
John had come to prepare the way for God!
VIPs send advance parties to herald the way. The need to make sure the hotels are booked and the transport arranged. The security is good.
God doesn’t need any of that, so why is John heralding the way?
Luke 1:77 NIV
to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins,
John was setting the stage for God’s arrival by proclaiming salvation through the forgiveness of sin.
And that exactly what he did! He went and preached a message of repentance - and began to baptist people for the forgiveness of Sin! If we are to receive the holy God, we need to be cleansed of all unrighteousness!
But why is the forgiveness of sin so important? Because sin leads to death. Yet God’s salvation would be rescue from death - through the forgiveness of sins!
And that’s what Zech prophesies!
Luke 1:77–79 NIV
to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
With God’s coming there could be rescue from darkness and death through forgiveness!
the Jews needed it. We need it.
We stand before God condemned, but if we heed the ministry of John the Baptist we can prepare to meet God in Jesus Christ.
We must repent and believe - the only way to salvation!
We undergo a ritual wash to symbolize our cleansing.
Zoch. Prophesied that John would go before the people to prepare them to meet God. And he did. Jesus - the god-man would follow on His heels and His ministry would build on what John had said.

What next?

To celebrate Christ -
Remember God’s Promises - to bless the nations and rescue his people.
Prepare to receive him - repentance & forgiveness. Heed the message!
Lead into communion
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