Advent IV Midweek + Luke 1:57-80 + December 21, 2016

Order of Matins - Pg. 32
Hymn #95 Savior of the Nations Come
Hymn #91 Let the Earth Now Praise the Lord
Hymn #272 When All the World Was Cursed

Psalmody - Psalm 5

Luther's Morning Prayer
I thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray You that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please You. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.

Luke 1:57-80

Sermon on Luke 1:57-80

Grace and Peace be unto you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1)         The Lord is faithful to His promises and always fulfills His Word. Consider the aged Zechariah. When the angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah he told him incredible news that he would be a father in his old age. Elizabeth would conceive and bear a son, whose name was to be called John. This child would be “great in the sight of the Lord,” and “be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15). His work would be just as impressive. Gabriel had said that “he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God” and go before the Lord Himself “in the spirt and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:16-17). Thus spoke the Lord. And thus Zechariah did not believe but doubted. He did not take God at His Word but questioned the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years” (Luke 1:18)? He could not take God at His Word. He held his age and his wife’s frailty to be truer than God’s Word which contradicted those things he felt in his body and experienced with his senses. For this unbelief he was struck dumb “until the day these things take place” (Luke 1:20). For nine months Zechariah could not communicate to Elizabeth his wife. For nine months he couldn’t tell anyone else the details of his vision. For nine months Zechariah could only consider his sin and think of the nature of God’s promises and His character.

2)         And when the time came, Elizabeth brought forth a son just as the angel had said, according to the Word of the Lord. The Word of the Lord was true. It was the only true thing. Zechariah’s age and Elizabeth’s infirmity were no match for the Word of the Lord, for the Lord speaks and His Word creates what it is says. “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). Zechariah had more than nine months to ponder the Word of the Lord and the Lord’s character. He had nine months of silence to teach him not to trust what comes out of his own mouth, but “every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3). When John is conceived, the Lord proves true to His Word. When Elizabeth gives birth to a healthy baby boy, the Lord proves Himself trustworthy. Eight days later, when John was circumcised, he was to be named, because that is the time when the Jews named their children. Nine months ago Zechariah confessed his unbelief in the promise of God. Now Zechariah, using a writing tablet, Zechariah communicates, “His name is John.” He does so much more than simply name the boy. He confesses his faith that what God has said about the boy was true. He confesses his wrongheadedness, his doubt, his unbelief. He confesses that God’s Word and promise is true above everything other thing in this life. He confesses what St. Paul writes in Romans 3:4, “Let God be true but every man a liar.

3)         Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God.” What Zechariah had pondered for nine silent months became the theme of his song. The theme of his song is God’s faithfulness to His promise. He “has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, as He spoke by the mouth of His prophets, who have been since the world began.” After David subdued his final enemy he wanted to build the Lord a house of worship a temple patterned after the Tabernacle. The Lord promised instead to build David a house, not a physical house but a dynasty, a kingdom. The Lord said, “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom” (2 Samuel 7:12). At the time of Zechariah the Davidic line seemed broken. Between the Old and New Testaments, it was not the house of David that ruled Judea but the house of Levi. It seemed to everyone that the Lord’s promise to David had fallen to the grown unfulfilled due to the faithlessness of the house of David. But with the advent of the forerunner and the Messiah whom he would herald, the Lord was fulfilling His promise to David. Gabriel had told Mary that “the Lord God will give her son the throne of His father David” (Luke 1:32). In Jesus, the Son of David, God’s promises, which seemed long-dormant sprung to life. God’s Word to David proved true.

4)         The promise of God’s salvation was made long before David. Zechariah says that in the birth of John and in his ministry which pointed to the Messiah, the Lord was remembering his holy covenant, “the oath which He swore to our father Abraham.” The Lord’s covenant with Abraham was much more than simply the promise of a child. When the Lord first appeared to Abraham He said, “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:2-3). Abraham is a blessing to others in his lifetime. His name is made great through his war. He was made a great nation by fathering the Israelites. But those fulfillments do not exhaust God’s promise to Abraham. All families of the earth are blessed in Abraham because of the Seed of Abraham, Christ, who atones for the sins of all the family of the earth. The great nation that springs from Abraham is not the Jews, but the church, all who believe the promise of the Messiah in every age. Abraham is a blessing not simply because of his life and his faith, but because the Lord brings His Christ into the world through the line of Abraham, for Jesus Christ is the Son of David and the Son of Abraham (Matthew 1:1). Though the Lord seemed to tarry in fulfilling His Word to Abraham and David, His Word was true above all things in this life. The Lord who spoke it proved trustworthy again.

5)         Advent is a season in which we contemplate the promises of God, especially the promise that Christ will return to judge the quick and the dead and usher in the new heavens and new earth for all who belief the Gospel. The devil prowls eagerly around you, doing all he can do sow seeds of doubt and disbelief in your heart, so that you slowly begin to cast aside your faith that Christ will return. The devil tempts us to believe that God is not true to His Word, and not just His promise to return on the Last Day, but all His promises to you. He wants you to doubt the promises God gave to you in Holy Baptism, that you have been adopted as God’s own child. The devil wants you to doubt the promise of forgiveness God gives you in the Absolution so that you come to believe you must atone for your own sins and make up for them by some work. The devil wants to lead you to disbelieve the promises God gives you in the Gospel, so that you doubt whether or not God is with you and that God is for you.  The devil wants to lead you in the unbelief as he did Zechariah, so that you trust you own words, your own imaginations, and your own thoughts, and believe them to be truer than God’s Word in Baptism, in the Absolution, and in the Gospel.

6)         This is why God gives us so many examples of His faithfulness throughout the Scriptures. He knows that we are beset by such an enemy. Our Lord knows the Devil’s schemes so He gives us the remedy of the Scriptures. He shows us throughout their pages that He is faithful to all His promises, not matter how small or insignificant they may seem. The culmination of all His promises to you, and to all mankind, is Jesus Christ, “for all the promises of God in Him are Yes” (2 Corinthians 1:20). As you await His final advent on the Last Day, daily read and consider His gracious promise in the Holy Scriptures, for they are all true. Rely upon the promises made to Abraham, David, and all the saints for they are all promises of your salvation and examples of God’s faithfulness that He will not abandon you or forsake you. Do not, as Zechariah did, doubt His Word, but trust it always because the One who spoke that Word is trustworthy and true, having sealed His promises to you with the blood of His Only-begotten Son, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham, the Son of God. Amen.  

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