Advent I Midweek Matins + Luke 1:1-25 + November 30, 2016

Order of Matins - Pg. 32
Hymn # 68 The Advent of Our King
Hymn # 72 Rejoice, Rejoice Believers

Psalmody - Psalm 1 

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 1:1-25

Sermon on Luke 1:1-25

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

1)         The angel Gabriel appears to Zacharias while he is doing his priestly duty. The lot fell to Zacharias, so it was his turn to burn incense in the holy place of the temple while the faithful offered up their prayers in the outer court of the temple. The Lord commanded the burning of incense in the Old Testament Temple and since that time, incense has always been a symbol for prayer, as the psalmist sings in Psalm 141:2, “Let my prayer be set before you as incense.” It is during this prayer time in the Temple that the Lord sends the archangel Gabriel to speak words of glad tidings and great joy to the aged priest. The angel appears to Zacharias, who was alone in the holy place, and speaks to him some of the most comforting words every spoken to man. “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.” By this the Lord shows you that He hears your prayers, that He is attentive to them, and that He will answer them in His own good and gracious time. I doubt that Zacharias and Elizabeth were still praying to have a child in their age. They may very well have given up the idea of being parents. But the Lord shows His graciousness in that He answers their prayers from years before which seemingly went unanswered. So it is for you. You are commanded to pray and the Lord tenderly invites you to ask for whatever it is that you need. He shows you in the example of Zacharias and Elizabeth that the Lord hears your prayers. Though He may not answer them as speedily as you would like, He will answer them in His own time and according to His good and gracious will.

2)         But this is not all the angel has to say about this child. It goes without saying that the parents to be will rejoice at his birth. But this child will cause “many” to rejoice because he will be a special child, one filled with the Holy Ghost from the womb. The Holy Ghost is given to him because He has a special task to perform. Gabriel continues, “He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.” To turn to the Lord means to repent of one’s sins. To be sorry for your sins and to desire to be rid of them. To turn to the Lord means to turn away from our sins and to turn the Lord, looking to Him for mercy. This boy named John will do that for many in Israel. In his adult life, John would preach and exhort all who would listen to forsake their sinful actions, but also their pretentious thoughts, that is, that just because they were children of Abraham they were saved. The Jews relied upon their lineage and genealogy instead of faith in the coming Messiah. John preached against that mentality and led them to be baptized, not only as a sign of sorrow for the sins, but to be baptized so that they might also receive the forgiveness of their sins, for Luke says that John “preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Luke 3:3). John was to preach and baptize thus because God never condemns poor sinners without providing a means of escape from wrath. Even today God commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30), so that they confess their sins to God and look to God for the forgiveness of all their sins. So John preaches the Law to Israel, which condemns them and brings repentance. Then John leads them to baptism to give them the forgiveness of sins. God doesn’t want us to overly sorrow for our sins. He wants us to repent daily so that we can daily rejoice in the gospel of Jesus and our own baptisms by which we have the forgiveness of all our sins and eternal life.

3)         This baby born to Zacharias and Elizabeth will also “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 righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” This too is glorious news. John prepares the way for one greater than he. Who is this one who comes after John? The angel says of John, “He will also go before Him.” You students know what part of speech “Him” is. It is a pronoun. Third person singular. And pronouns have antecedents, a noun to which they refer. (Don’t think that your grammar lessons are useless). The antecedent to this pronoun “Him” comes in the verse before when Gabriel says John will “turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.” The Lord God is the “Him” whom John will precede. John is the forerunner of the Messiah. And the Messiah will be the Lord God, the creator of the heavens and the earth, the maker of all things visible and invisible. The Messiah whom John announces is the Lord God who formed Adam out of dirt and Eve from Adam’s rib. The coming Messiah is the one who saved Noah in the Ark, gave Abraham Isaac, and who brought Israel out of Egypt with the ten plagues. John is special because the one who comes after John is special, it is the Messiah from sin, death, and the power of the devil, the Lord God Himself. John’s job was to prepare a people for the Messiah’s coming. He would prepare them by preaching repentance for sin and baptism for the forgiveness of those sins.

4)         These words to Zacharias are truly “glad tidings,” as the angel calls them, because they show all of us that God is faithful to His promises, even if He seems to have forgotten them. This promise of the Savior from sin, death, and the power of the devil, had been made ages before in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve first fell into sin by choosing to disbelieve God’s Word and follow the devil’s word instead. The Lord God said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” Ever since that first gospel promise had been made to Adam and Eve, faithful Christians had waiting for its fulfillment. People had to wait for that promise to be fulfilled much longer than Zacharias and Elizabeth had to wait for their prayer for a baby to be answered. And though the Lord seemed to tarry and delay, He proved Himself faithful once again. The Lord God who condemned Satan in Eden would soon take on our human flesh. The ancient serpent would bruise His heal on the cross when Christ “suffered for us in the flesh.” But by that very same death, God in human flesh would forever bruise the head of the ancient serpent, atoning for all our sins “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  

5)         Let us not be like Zacharias, who heard such glad tidings and did not believe. Instead, rejoice in the all the promises that God gives to you in His Son Jesus Christ. As you prepare for the yearly celebration of Jesus’ birth, treasure the wonderful story of God becoming man to earn your salvation and give you so many gifts which you could never earn for yourselves.  And remember your prayers, for though your heavenly Father may seem at times not to answer them, take heart that the Lord promises to hear your prayers and answer you graciously. He shows that to you in the story of Zacharias. He shows that you ultimately though in fulling His promise to send Jesus, the Lord our God, to free us from our sins and grant us eternal life through repentance, baptism, and faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

May the peace of God which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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