The Glorious Proclamation

Luke 1.26-38

Since the time of the fall, the people of God have been looking for the promised King who would come and crush the head of the serpent, put an end to sin and death, and bring eternal life so that they could reign with Him in His kingdom forever. And now the promised King will soon be here!

Mary is an unlikely candidate to be the mother of the Messiah from an earthly perspective…in this age of celebrity we might have expected someone more prestigious, someone more connected, a little more flash or a bigger deal, not a young, poor, small town girl…a nobody in the world’s eyes. I’m glad God’s not caught up in the things that we are. I’m glad that He constantly challenges and redefines our view of family and grace. He sees Mary’s humble heart, that she’s poor in spirit…she’s desperately craving His grace. She’s reflective…pondering the angel’s words, believing what the angel says, and then she humbly submits to the Lord’s will. She’s a great example for us.

God is fulfilling His promise of a King…God keeps His word. We can trust Him to keep His promises still today. Promises of the forgiveness of sins and a new heart, His Spirit dwelling within us, His presence with us, everlasting life and an eternal kingdom. This is what God will do. And only He can. He can do great and wondrous things and use whomever He chooses to accomplish His purpose however He wishes. You are not insignificant in God’s design…in His plan to reach the valley. From an earthly perspective, Mary was a nobody from a nothing town in the middle of nowhere, but not so from a heavenly perspective. She had a significant role to play in God’s plan of redemption…so do you. He wants to use you to impact the folks around you for His kingdom. The question is, will you trust Him to do so?

Join us next week as we continue our Advent story talking about Good News, Great Joy!

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This post is based on a sermon from our Advent series, Once Upon a Christmas. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Born is the King of Love

Advent theme of Love through the eyes of Mary…

So today we’re going to talk about love…true love, God’s kind of love, a love that is foreign to the world we know today. Love that is action and not just emotion…notice I said “not just emotion” because love is not emotionless, but it is not primarily emotion. The love that the Bible talks about is a choice. God chooses to love us, not because we are so lovable…we’re not. We’re rebellious…we broke the good world He created and rejected Him in the process. But God chose to love us and He acted… “For God so loved the world, He gave…” Love asks the question, “How can I best serve you?”, not “what’s in it for me?” That kind of love is very different then than what our culture defines as love. You see, culture has what I like to call, a Walt Disney view of love. It’s actually a view of love that goes way back to the ancient Greek philosophers like Plato, who believed that at one time, we humans were two people in one body…4 arms, 4 legs, 2 heads, etc.…and because we became arrogant, thinking we could replace the gods, Zeus split us in half, rendering us less powerful and condemning us to spend the rest of our lives yearning for our other half to complete us. It’s where the idea of soulmate comes from. Somewhere out there there is a perfect match for me, my soulmate, the one who completes me. For you gals, it’s your prince charming. For the guys out there, it’s our Cinderella. When I find my soulmate, then we will live happily ever after. So when the happily ever after isn’t so happy, when the frog you kissed turns out to be just a frog and not a prince, then you have every right to throw him back and kiss another frog. When the glass slipper doesn’t fit, try it on someone else. Love lasts as long as I am happy, as long as my needs are met. Love is really about me. Now granted, that describes a particular kind of love between a guy and a gal, but the selfish aspect of that kind of love infects all of our relationships. I’m friends with those who somehow make me fill good… 

Mary didn’t know what she was getting into when she said, “Yes” to the Lord (Luke 1.26-33) and began the indescribable adventure of both parenting and following Jesus. She couldn’t have predicted the great joy and the great pain that it would bring. But she believed in God’s great love for her. She trusted that He was concerned about her good and was working things out to that end. Surely not what she had expected…but she didn’t regret saying, “Yes.”

What’s the great adventure He’s calling you to? What do you need to say “yes” to Him about?

 Saying “yes” assumes that you know God loves you…so, do you know that God loves you? Not just intellectually, but do you really know, do you believe that God loves you? He has gone to the greatest lengths to prove it. Sending His own Son to die so that we, you and I, might live. 

How are you experiencing God’s love? What does it look like in your life? Can you see His fingerprints in your circumstances? Are you learning to listen to His voice? You can only experience God’s love when you believe He loves you. 

 If other folks loved God the way you love God, and if they loved others the way you do, how would the world be different? What would that look like? More or less selfish. Remember love is a choice.

 “May we experience and share the love of the King this Christmas season.”

Mary’s Song

Luke 1.39.56

John echoes Gabriel’s promise that Mary would be Jesus’ mom by leaping in the womb. Elizabeth praises Mary’s faith in God’s promise. Her blessing leads Mary into a hymn of praise that is also a declaration of faith. God will vindicate the God-fearers in the nation in remembrance of His covenant promises to Abraham. Mary knows that God has not only shown mercy to her, but that this mighty, merciful, and holy God will also show mercy to His faithful people. It’s clear that Mary trusts in the fulfillment of God’s promises. They will come to pass.

John, Elizabeth and Mary are co-conspirators in the divine plot to rescue the lost, experiencing the joy that salvation brings. There is a sense of excitement and great expectancy about what God is going to do. He is fulfilling His promise to David, but also His promise to Mary. He is a faithful God and One who is powerful enough to bring about what He has promised. He exalts the humble and brings low the proud.

Mary once again is a model of faith…believing what the angel has said, trusting in God to bring it about, submitting to His will, then moving out in faith. We too are to believe God’s promises (everlasting life, eternal kingdom, presence), trusting Him to bring them about, submitting to His will (timing, ways) and then moving out in faith.

But it starts with faith…faith that salvation is here. Jesus has come to rescue us. He is both perfect, sinless Man and almighty God. He alone can save. By believing that He came and lived a perfect life, died a bloody, sacrificial death, was raised again the third day, conquering both sin and death and trusting in Him alone to rescue us…all so that we could be reconciled to our Creator God…the Bible says we are saved. We are rescued.

May Jesus be enough for us this week, and may we experience the joy of salvation that Jesus brings.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Luke series entitled Redefining the Family. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

NT Reading – May 18

Luke 1

Introduction

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.

Birth of John the Baptist Foretold

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years.

Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering. 11 And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. 12 Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. 14 You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. 17 It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

18 Zacharias said to the angel, “How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 The angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”

21 The people were waiting for Zacharias, and were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them; and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he kept making signs to them, and remained mute. 23 When the days of his priestly service were ended, he went back home.

24 After these days Elizabeth his wife became pregnant, and she kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying, 25 “This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men.”

Jesus’ Birth Foretold

26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. 36 And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Mary Visits Elizabeth

39 Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, 40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.”

The Magnificat

46 And Mary said:

“My soul exalts the Lord,
47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
48 “For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave;
For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.
49 “For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
And holy is His name.
50 And His mercy is upon generation after generation
Toward those who fear Him.
51 “He has done mighty deeds with His arm;
He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.
52 “He has brought down rulers from their thrones,
And has exalted those who were humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things;
And sent away the rich empty-handed.
54 “He has given help to Israel His servant,
In remembrance of His mercy,
55 As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and his descendants forever.”

56 And Mary stayed with her about three months, and then returned to her home.

John Is Born

57 Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her; and they were rejoicing with her.

59 And it happened that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to call him Zacharias, after his father. 60 But his mother answered and said, “No indeed; but he shall be called John.” 61 And they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by that name.” 62 And they made signs to his father, as to what he wanted him called. 63 And he asked for a tablet and wrote as follows, “His name is John.” And they were all astonished. 64 And at once his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he began to speak in praise of God. 65 Fear came on all those living around them; and all these matters were being talked about in all the hill country of Judea. 66 All who heard them kept them in mind, saying, “What then will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him.

Zacharias’s Prophecy

67 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:

68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people,
69 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us
In the house of David His servant—
70 As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old—
71 Salvation from our enemies,
And from the hand of all who hate us;
72 To show mercy toward our fathers,
And to remember His holy covenant,
73 The oath which He swore to Abraham our father,
74 To grant us that we, being rescued 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 on before the Lord to prepare His ways;
77 To give to His people the knowledge of salvation
By the forgiveness of their sins,
78 Because of the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us,
79 To shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.”

80 And the child continued to grow and to become strong in spirit, and he lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation (www.lockman.org)

Easter Devotional – February 23

As Easter quickly approaches, and it will be quick, let’s take some time to walk through Jesus’ life. Although this journey through Matthew begins with Jesus’ birth, the story begins way before that. If you’ve heard any of our Genesis series, you know that the hope for Jesus was proclaimed in Genesis 3:15…the head-crushing seed of the woman.

Jump ahead to Mary and Joseph and the story of the fulfillment of the first advent.

 

Scripture: Matthew 1:18-25

Conception and Birth of Jesus

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” 24 And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25 but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.

Here we see Joseph’s perspective of Jesus’ birth. First, Mary tells him a story fit for a soap opera, then he has a dream that verifies it! This Child is the Messiah that’s been so long expected…prophesied about throughout history. Mary and Joseph had no idea how this was all going to work out. They were just an engaged couple, chosen by God to bring the Messiah into the world.

They had to trust God with their entire lives. They had to allow God to take over, to change the course of their lives as they had planned it.

Are you open to that…in the midst of your plans? Are you open to hearing from God? Are you willing to allow Him to speak into your life…and transform it?

Prayer: God, as I read Your Word over the next 40 days, help me to hear Your voice and be willing to allow You to transform my life. Help me to discover more about who You are in order for me to live and love like You.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation (www.lockman.org)