Thanksgiving is behind us and Christ is coming soon. Today, we start a new message series called ‘Christmas Blessings.” We’re going to learn some important lessons for our lives from the Christmas story in the Gospel of Luke.
What is Christmas all about? At Christmas, we celebrate God’s greatest gift, the gift of Jesus, the Son of God coming to earth. God’s plan to send the Messiah, Jesus to save His people had been planned by God before the earth was created. God’s plan to send Jesus had been prophesied in the Old Testament hundreds of times, from Genesis 3 onward.
Isaiah 9:6 (ESV) For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
A human baby would be born, who would also be Mighty God. He will be the Messiah, the ruler of all kingdoms, equal with the Father, Prince of Peace. God’s plan to send Jesus to save the world was conceived in the mind of God from before the creation of the world. The plan moved forward, even despite the sin of Adam and Eve in the garden. The plan continued with the selection of Abraham to have a child with Sarah.
Hebrews 11:8 (ESV) By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
To fulfill Gods’ plan, Abraham had to believe God and move to a new land. There he and Sarah had to believe God to give them a son even in their old age. By faith Moses lead the people of Israel out of Egypt to the border of the Promised Land. We see a pattern here. God’s plans are carried out by men and women of faith. Each one chose to believe God even when things seemed impossible. Just as God had plans for the people of faith we read about in the Bible, so He has plans for your life.
Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV) For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
God has good plans for your life, plans to give you a future and a hope. By faith, you can also follow God’s good plans for your life. Today, we’re going to look at the story of an elderly couple who were part of God’s plan to announce the birth of Jesus. From this story, my prayer is that we would all learn how to follow God’s plans for our lives from their example.
Luke 1:5-6 (ESV) In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.
Here we have an example of a couple that were faithfully following God in every respect, Zechariah and Elizabeth. The were not involved with sin and obeyed God’s commandments. The Scripture says that they were both righteous in God’s eyes. However, they had a problem.
Luke 1:7-9 (ESV) But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years. Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.
Elizabeth had been unable to conceive their entire marriage, even though they greatly desired to have a child. But now, they were elderly and it seemed that their hopes for a child were gone. For a priest to be chosen to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense was a great honor. As there so many priest, it was something that would only happen once in a lifetime. But now it was Zechariah’s turn to burn incense as worship before the Lord.
Luke 1:10-12 (ESV) And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him.
Only the priest, Zechariah entered the Holy Place in the temple to burn incense as an offering to the Lord, the people were praying outside. The people outside could not see what Zechariah was doing or hear anything from the Holy Place. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared, standing just at the right of the altar of incense. Zechariah was filled with a great fear. He had not expected to see the angel and had no idea what was going to happen next. Let’s talk more about God’s amazing plans.
Even though Zechariah and Elizabeth were elderly, God still had an amazing plan for their lives. Something that God had been prepared for them for years. Just as Zechariah was in the Holy Place, close to the Holy of Holies were God’s presence dwelt, the angel appeared. As we see throughout the Bible, Zechariah was gripped with a great fear.
Many people think that God and His plan has passed them by. They think they are either too young or too old for God to do anything in and through their lives. The truth is that no matter what age you are, God has a plan for your life today. God’s plans for your life are amazing, they are beyond anything you could imagine.
God’s plans for your life are not just amazing, they are amazingly good. Everything in your life before today has been preparing you for today. Everything that God asks you to do in His plan for your life, you can do with His help. Let’s say together: God has amazing plans for my life.
Luke 1:13-14 (ESV) But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth,
The angel had some very good news for Zechariah. First of all, we learn that Zechariah had been praying unceasingly for a son. The Bible tells us that when we pray according to God’s Word, He hears us and when He hears us, the answer is on its way. So, Zechariah’s prayer had been heard and his wife, Elizabeth would have a son. The son was to be named and would bring much joy and gladness into their home.
Luke 1:15-16 (ESV) for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God,
This would be no ordinary son, but he would be a great leader for the Lord. He would take the Nazarite vows of consecration and no drink any wine of strong drink. The child John would be filled with the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb. One of many verses in Scripture indicating the God sees the unborn as persons. John would be a prophet who would turn many Israelites to the Lord through His ministry.
Luke 1:17 (ESV) and he will 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 for the Lord a people prepared.”
In this verse, the angel speaks of the amazing plan that God had for this baby, John the Baptist. He was to be the forerunner to the Messiah, who would be God in the flesh. He would have the spirit and power of the great OT prophet Elijah. Luke quotes from Malachi 3 to say that this child would restore families in many ways.
Finally, he would prepare the people he ministered to, to be ready for the ministry of the Lord Jesus. This was earthshaking news for Zechariah as he listened to the angel speaking. There had been no prophets in Israel since Malachi, some 400 years ago. Now, this angel prophesied that the son of Zechariah would be the forerunner for the Messiah Himself, God in the flesh. Not only were these plans completely outside of what Zechariah could have hoped or dreamed for his son. Zechariah would have to believe that God really would send he and his wife Elizabeth a son in their old age. God’s plans always require great faith to believe God for.
God’s plans for your life can never be accomplished in your own strength and skill. If the plans you have in mind for your future and something you can easily accomplish without God’s help, then they’re probably not God’s amazing plan. God’s plans for your life will always cause you to have your faith stretched. In other words, God’s plans for your life can never be accomplished without faith in God.
God’s plans always have a goal, in one way or another, of expanding God’s kingdom on the earth. Of seeing the lost saved, the sick healed and the oppressed set free. Those plans can only be fulfilled through the power of God’s Spirit. God’s plans require faith to fulfilled.
Luke 1:18-19 (ESV) And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.
Zechariah replies to the angel’s amazing plans in the NLT “How can I be sure this will happen? He then brings up the truth of their advanced age, well beyond normal childbearing years. I think the angel could not believe that Zechariah was doubting him. He replied to Zechariah, don’t you know who I am? I am Gabriel and stand in God’s presence. God Himself dispatched me to come and bring you the good news of God’s plan Unbelieve always has consequences.
Luke 1:20-21 (ESV) And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple.
All this conversation was taking place behind the second veil in the temple, setting apart the Holy Place. The angel pronounced that Zechariah would be mute until the promised baby would be born. Why? Because he did not believe the angel’s words.
I believe that once Zechariah saw that he couldn’t speak anymore, he was instantly convinced the angel knew what he was talking about. At that instant, I think that Zechariah had faith for that baby boy to be born. Notice that Zechariah’s lack of faith did not abort God’s plan. Zechariah’s unbelief simply caused God’s judgement to come on him for nine months.
Luke 1:22-23 (ESV) And 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. And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
Finally, Zechariah came out from his visitation by the angel. He as mute, as the angel ha pronounced. He continued to search in the temple for the rest of his two-weeks and then went home.
Luke 1:24-25 (ESV) After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
Zechariah’s wife Elizabeth conceived and praised the Lord for granting her a son. The beginning of the angel’s word had come to pass. God’s plans were fulfilled despite Zechariah’s unbelief.
Now, you and I don’t need an angel to appear to have an amazing plan from God. God speaks in many different ways to show you His plan. God’s overall plan for His kingdom will be fulfilled no matter how every person responds. However, God wants to offer you a privilege to be part of bringing His kingdom from heaven to earth.
Do you have plans for your future here on the earth? If so, are those plans that you have dreamed up or are they plans that God has given you? Oftentimes as we walk with God, He will direct the desires of our hearts to His plans. So, ideally our desires and God’s plan are in agreement. Sometimes, that is not the case. Then we must submit our plans to God’s plans and let Him sort it out. Nevertheless, as believers, we are privileged to be part of God’s plan for His church. No matter what is going on in our world, God’s plans will be fulfilled.
In our story today, God had an amazing plan for a miracle baby to announce the coming of Jesus into the world. God has an amazing plan for your life. Do you know what God’s plan for you is? Are you working God’s plan in faith? God’s plans for our lives often seem impossible. Yet, as we follow God one step at a time and are faithful, those plans will be fulfilled.
As you trust God to work on His plan for your life, He will give you the strength and faith to be successful. Ultimately, God’s plan for your life involves bringing His kingdom from heaven to earth. We want to see God’s will done on earth as it is in heaven.