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-About 20 or so years ago there was this artistic fad (if you want to call it that) of pictures that had some sort of pattern that went across the whole print, and in and of itself may not have been considered very good art. But if you would stare at the picture in a certain way, you would find that there was a hidden 3D image that was embedded somehow within the pattern that would pop out.
-So the pattern might look like nothing but a bunch of red and blue wavy lines, but when looked at the right way you might see a large whale or something. The pattern was not the real picture—the true image was found behind pattern.
-Here we are in the Christmas season, and we have trees and lights and all sorts of beautiful scenery. And as Christians we have the story with so many great images==Mary and Joseph going to Bethlehem, a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths lying in a manger, shepherds, angels, and a whole host of other figures that make up the story that we relate with Christmas.
-But the story is not the end game (so to speak). Just like the patterns that contained the hidden 3D image, the Christmas story contains a very important message from God that He had built up to ever since the beginning of creation.
-It is the message that gives the story meaning. So, what is the message that is embedded in the story of babies, mangers, angels, and shepherds? We find the message proclaimed through a Holy Spirit-inspired prophecy given by John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah.
-If you remember the story, as Zechariah was offering incense in the temple, he was visited by an angel telling him about the child his wife would bear. Zechariah doubted the angels message, and was made mute. Eventually the child was born and Zechariah’s mouth was loosed. Some of the first words that came out of his mouth was this prophecy that declares the message behind the story of Christmas.
-And my prayer is that we would live in light of this deeper message of Christmas, and that we would share the meaning of it with others.
Luke 1:67–80 ESV
67 And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, 68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people 69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, 70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 71 that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; 72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, 73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us 74 that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. 76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” 80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.
-There are five points to the heavenly message that we find behind all the images of the Christmas story:

I) God accomplished His saving purpose

-It actually might seem strange, but the prophecy that Zechariah gives does not focus on his own son or his son’s work. The first 2/3’s of the prophecy has to do with the child that Mary will give birth to—our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is then in the last part that he prophecies about his own son, but it is in the context of what his son will do in conjunction with Christ.
-So beginning in vv. 68-69, Zechariah praises God that He has begun the work of deliverance that He had promised He would do long ago. And, although some of the imagery used by Zechariah might make it sound like some sort of national or historical deliverance, we know that ultimately it points to a spiritual salvation that the Christ-child would accomplish.
-So Zechariah begins by recognizing that God has visited His people. This is an acknowledgement that God is still intervening for His people and is still working amongst humanity. God has not left humanity to his own devices, but is still fulfilling plans and purposes, working toward the ultimate end of righting everything that went wrong with the Fall.
-And how was this to be done? Zechariah prophecies that through the Christ-child God will redeem His people. I know that words like redeem and redemption sound very churchy, but there is a great truth behind them. What it means is that through Christ God paid the ransom price to set people free from sin and its consequences.
-Now, there are a lot of false teachers out there that say that God had to pay a ransom price to the devil to set people free—but this is heresy. When mankind sinned, they didn’t go in debt to the devil. Mankind sinned against God and His righteous standards, so mankind went into debt with God. And if mankind was to be set free, then God’s justice had to be met.
-Through Jesus’ death, that debt of sin was paid to God—His righteous standards were met, justice was served, God’s wrath was appeased, and man’s ransom was paid. So God made the way to pay off man’s debt Himself.
-Zechariah went on to say that a horn of salvation was raised for us. The horn was a symbol of an animal’s strength, so Zechariah recognized that God had the power to accomplish what He set out to accomplish—all of mankind had the opportunity for salvation, although only those who believe would reap the benefits.
-So the first part of the message behind the story is that through the Christmas Christ-child, God accomplished His saving purposes. The second part of the message is that:

II) God fulfilled His prophecies and promises

-After the Fall of mankind, God did not have to go to a plan B for what He would do with humanity, and God did not kind of make things up as He went along to fulfill His ultimate purposes.
-God had an eternal plan that, out of His love for those made in His image, He would accomplish His saving purpose. And throughout history He revealed more and more of that plan through His prophets and then apostles, making the promise that the Fall and its curse would be reversed.
-And all these prophecies and promises converged to this one point in history in the Christ—and as Zechariah recognized in v. 70, what this Christ-child would accomplish fulfills the prophecies and promises spoken by the prophets of old.----From our perspective, we would say that the prophecies and promises found in the OT had their fulfillment in Jesus.
-God has prophesied in Isaiah that the virgin would conceive and bear a Son whose name (that is, His nature and character) is Immanuel (God with us)—Jesus Christ is God in the flesh.----God also prophesied in Micah that this child would be born in Bethlehem, and He was.
-And because God fulfilled the prophecies of His birth, we know that the promises behind the meaning of His death and resurrection also hold true. God promised in Isaiah 53 that the Messiah’s chastisement and death made for our peace, and that through His wounds we are spiritually healed. He promised that all of our iniquities and sins were laid on Him, for the Christ would be the sacrifice given because of our guilt, and by His sacrifice we would be made righteous.
-And what this means for us now is that not only is our salvation assured, and that God will fulfill the promise of eternal life granted through Christ, but also that any remaining prophecies and promises that have not yet been fulfilled will be fulfilled in His timing, so we can trust Him and take Him at His Word.

III) God delivered His people from the enemy

-In vv. 71-74, Zechariah prophesies that the Christ-child would deliver His people from the hand of their enemies.
-The Christ-child, through His life and sacrifice, took away the power and authority of the enemy of our souls, who is Satan, and He took away the power of Satan’s tools, such as death and fear and temptation.
-Right now, in this world, Satan has power and authority (for a time). After the Fall of humanity, mankind turned over the dominion of the world that they originally possessed from God and handed that dominion over to Satan. And with this dominion he does whatever he can to steal, kill, and destroy any that bear the image of his enemy, the Lord God Almighty. And in and of themselves, mankind is powerless to do anything about it.
-Being born with a sin nature, mankind is under the power and dominion of the devil. The enemy is real and the enemy is powerful. Satan is not some red-suited guy with horns and a pitch-fork, but is the authority and power over all wickedness and evil, and in our natural state, we are his slaves.
-But the message that is given at Christmas is that escape from Satan’s kingdom is possible by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. By His death and resurrection, Christ defeated sin, death, hell, and Satan.
-Therefore, any who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ are set free from Satan’s power and released from spiritual imprisonment in his kingdom.
As Paul tells us:
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,
14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Col. 1:13-14 ESV)
-The message behind Christmas is freedom: freedom from Satan, freedom from death, freedom from fear. Through the Christ of Christmas we too can sing: Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty I am free at last.

IV) God enabled His people’s transformation

-In vv. 74-75, Zechariah tells us that having been delivered from the hands of our enemies, we are now free to serve God in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.
-What he is pointing out is that in our natural state, we had no ability to serve God even if we had wanted to (which in our sin nature we did not want to).
-But when we believe the Christmas message of God becoming a man, living out the law perfectly, and then dying to pay the debt of sin, we are completely transformed, given a new nature, that not only desires to serve God, but is given the ability to serve God.
-Through Jesus Christ everything about us is transformed. We go through a spiritual transformation: taken out of spiritual death and given spiritual life. We are given an emotional transformation: taken out of despair and given hope and joy. We go through a behavioral transformation: taken out of wicked deeds and given obedience and righteousness. We even go through a physical transformation: from one who dies forever to one who will be raised from the dead.
-As one pastor put it:
• He came so that we who were lost in sin might be lifted up into the service of God.
• He came so that we who served another master might serve God our Creator.
• He came so that we who fear facing God might be reconciled to Him.
• He came so that we who felt the disconnection of our lives from all purpose might have life abundantly.
• He came so that we who once could not please God might be pleasing to Him forever.
• He came so that we who were unholy might have our lives aligned to Him and His ways.
-The message of the Christmas story is that when you believe in Jesus Christ, you will never be the same again.

V) God called for the message’s proclamation

-In vv. 76-79 Zechariah prophesied his son’s part in the ministry of the Christ-child. John would prepare the way of the Lord before Him, and would prepare hearts to accept Him. John would tell people how to be saved and through whom to be saved. He would point people to forgiveness of sins in Christ, and freedom from sin according to God’s mercy.
-John’s part in the story was that of a herald. He would tell people who were stuck in darkness where to find the light—and it is only in Jesus Christ.
-And now that part has been handed down to us. We are now the herald of good news. We know the way of eternal peace. We know where true life is found. Our part is to herald the news that UNTO US A CHILD IS BORN; UNTO US A CHILD IS GIVEN; HE IS THE WONDERFUL COUNSELOR; HE IS THE MIGHTY GOD; HE IS THE FATHER OF ALL ETERNITY; HE IS THE PRINCE OF PEACE
-Shout forth this message from the mountaintops and the rooftops at the top of your lungs—let people know that there is light and life and peace and hope and joy, but it is only found through the Christ-child----that is the message of the entire Christmas story


-In some form or fashion, we all love stories. Often times stories have a moral lesson that goes with them. The boy who cries wolf warns us not to lie. The story of King Midas tells us to be content with what we have.
-But the Christmas story is historical fact that has a deeper message than just the imagery associated with it. It is the story of God’s love for humanity such that He sent His only Son to die to save mankind. It is the story of the only means of eternal life as found in the child of Christmas.
-If you have never trusted in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you will have no life without Him, and you will be under God’s wrath forever. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ today.
-Maybe you know of someone who needs to believe in this message, come to the altar and pray for them.
-Maybe you want to be a part of a church to herald this message throughout the earth—come and join yourself with Harvest Baptist Church.
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