It had been over 400 years since a prophet had arisen in Israel. Great expectations had given way to routine resignation as the final words of Malachi remained unfulfilled. But then God sent John the Baptist to announce that the Messiah had finally arrived. John’s mission was to proclaim a message of repentance that would prepare people for his Master - the Savior who comes to us today through the pages of Scripture that we might be baptized with his Holy Spirit and live for his glory.
Child prodigies who are gifted in music, math, or athletics are often identified very young, but none are identified at birth. When Jesus was born, the host of heaven and multiple prophets proclaimed that He was no ordinary child, but the promised Savior and Redeemer sent by God. Through the testimony of Scripture, we, too, stand in awe of the One who was Lord at His birth and who both saves and sends us by His grace.
The opening days of 2020 are a perfect time to take stock of how we use our tongues and to see where flattery and quarreling slip into our speech patterns. When we find such sinful talk, the good news is that we can make use of the gospel gifts to put such words away and replace them with wise words.
The end of the old year and the start of a new year is a good time for personal self-reflection regarding our level of spiritual maturity. Maturity is an important theme in the New Testament’s view of the Christian life, and in the final sermon for 2019, we will look at Paul’s connection between personal spiritual maturity and stability in one’s life and doctrine.
The pride of thinking they knew better than God was the root of Adam and Eve’s first sin and it continues to be the root of our sin each day. Only a Savior who was born in humility, lived in humility, and died in humility is able to atone for the sin of our pride and enable us to live graciously before God and one another.
There were a variety of responses to the announcement of Jesus’ birth. King Herod responded with murderous rage. Priest Zachariah responded with skeptical doubt. Joseph responded with thoughts of divorce. But a poor, teenage girl from Nazareth responded with faithful submission. When presented with the Word of the Lord, she obediently reflected her Savior who would later say, “Thy will be done” supremely on the cross. Luke reminds us that the birth of our Lord calls us to not only rejoice, but to submit our lives to the One who first gave His life for us.
Most people come and go without notice. Really important people have a herald announce them a minute before they arrive. As the time came for Jesus to be born, God sent a mighty angel from heaven, to the center of His temple, over a year in advance, to announce the birth of the one who would announce the ministry of the Lord Jesus. What a great King Luke prepares us for! And Jesus is the King who not only proclaims His salvation to us, but who calls us to be His heralds to the nations.
Advent, the four weeks leading up Christmas, is the time the church has set aside to recognize Jesus’ incarnation as the long-awaited Messiah. And while we think of Christmas in terms of giving gifts, we rarely think of one of the important implications of the incarnation. Using Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians, we’ll see that we are to imitate Jesus in his incarnation by being self-sacrificing and unselfish – hardly the typical Christmas message, but one that reflects a Christ-centered view of the incarnation.
Whether you are a believer, a skeptic, or are still deciding, doubt affects us all. Is Jesus really who He said He was? Did He really do all those miracles? Is He truly the only way to God? By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Luke wrote a detailed, orderly, historical account so that we might know the certain truth about Jesus Christ. He is the seeking Savior who sacrificed Himself so that in Him we might stand firm in shaky times.
Our words can be used for ill, to harm others and destroy relationships. Solomon helps us to understand exactly how powerful our hurtful words are, and how we can, under Christ’s grace in the gospel, put off unrighteous speech and replace it with righteous patterns.