November 27, 2022

Here is the worship guide for Sunday, November 27, 2022.

PDF version of the worship guide to download or print.

The livestream will begin at 10:30 a.m. on our Facebook page or YouTube page.

A picture containing drawing

Description automatically generatedWelcome and Announcements

Opening Prayer

Hymn: “Never Cease to Praise”
Words and music: Jeff Bourque.

May we run this race, may we keep the faith,
may our eyes be fixed on Jesus,
that we’ll not lose heart in our struggle with sin,
and through suffering know endurance.

May we arm ourselves with the mind of Christ
to rejoice in trials and be not surprised.
May our hearts be so consumed by You
that we never cease to praise.

May our company be the saints You’ve called,
may we all stand firm in one spirit,
that the gospel’s truth may resound on earth,
that all living things may hear it.

May the fruits of faith mark the path we trod
through the life of Christ to the glory of God.
May our hearts be so consumed by You
that we never cease to praise.

May the words we share be Your grace and peace.
May our tongues speak Your proclamations
that the many parts of the body of Christ
be affirmed in their right relation.

As we long and wait for the groom to come,
may we learn to love, and spur each other on.
May our hearts be so consumed by You
that we never cease to praise.

When that day arrives, and our race is won,
when our griefs give way to deliverance,
we will fully know, as we’re fully known,
all our groans will end as new songs begin.

And a multitude from every tribe and tongue,
wearing robes of white, will stand before Your throne,
And our hearts will be so consumed by You
that we’ll never cease to praise!

May our hearts be so consumed by You
that we never cease to praise.

Hymn: “By Faith”
Words and music: Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty, and Stuart Townend.

By faith we see the hand of God 
in the light of creation’s grand design.
In the lives of those who prove His faithfulness,
who walk by faith and not by sight 

We will stand as children of the promise;
we will fix our eyes on Him our soul’s reward;
till the race is finished and the work is done.
We’ll walk by faith and not by sight. 

By faith our fathers roamed the earth,
with the power of His promise in their hearts,
of a holy city built by God’s own hand,
a place where peace and justice reign.

We will stand as children of the promise;
we will fix our eyes on Him our soul’s reward;
till the race is finished and the work is done. 
We’ll walk by faith and not by sight. 

By faith the prophets saw a day 
when the longed-for Messiah would appear,
with the power to break the chains of sin and death,
and rise triumphant from the grave.

We will stand as children of the promise;
we will fix our eyes on Him our soul’s reward;
till the race is finished and the work is done. 
We’ll walk by faith and not by sight. 

By faith the church was called to go 
in the power of the Spirit to the lost.
To deliver captives and to preach good news 
in every corner of the earth.

We will stand as children of the promise;
we will fix our eyes on Him our soul’s reward;
till the race is finished and the work is done. 
We’ll walk by faith and not by sight.   

By faith this mountain shall be moved,
and the power of the gospel shall prevail;
for we know in Christ all things are possible
for all who call upon His name. 

We will stand as children of the promise;
we will fix our eyes on Him our soul’s reward;
till the race is finished and the work is done. 
We’ll walk by faith and not by sight. 

Advent Reading and Candle Lighting

Hymn: “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus”
Words by Charles Wesley, music by Rowland H. Prichard

Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth Thou art;
dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever, now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit rule in all our hearts alone;
by Thine all sufficient merit, raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Sermon: “The Faith That Was Once Delivered to All the Saints”
Jude
1–4 (ESV)

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James,
To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:
May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Hymn: “He Will Hold Me Fast”
Words: Ada Habershon, Matt Merker. Music: Matt Merker.

When I fear my faith will fail, Christ will hold me fast;
when the tempter would prevail, He will hold me fast.
I could never keep my hold through life’s fearful path;
for my love is often cold; He must hold me fast.

He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast;
For my Savior loves me so, He will hold me fast.

Those He saves are His delight, Christ will hold me fast;
precious in His holy sight, He will hold me fast.
He’ll not let my soul be lost; His promises shall last;
Bought by Him at such a cost, He will hold me fast.

He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast;
For my Savior loves me so, He will hold me fast.

For my life He bled and died, Christ will hold me fast;
Justice has been satisfied; He will hold me fast,
Raised with Him to endless life, He will hold me fast
’till our faith is turned to sight, when He comes at last!

He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast;
For my Savior loves me so, He will hold me fast.

Benediction
1 Corinthians 16:23 (ESV)
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.

 

Good News of Great Joy (Luke 2:8-20)

When Jesus was born, an angel announced this good news to shepherds. These humble men saw two great sights: a dark sky illuminated by the glory of the Lord and a host of angels and a baby in a manger. While the former sight would have been most impressive, the latter vision was greater. Find out how God often reveals his glory by listening to this sermon, preached by Brian Watson on December 26, 2021.

The Virgin Shall Conceive

There are two great miracles of Christmas: One is that God became man, something called the incarnation. The other is that a virgin would become pregnant apart from sexual intercourse. The sign that God is with his people is that a virgin would conceive and give birth to a son known as Immanuel, or “God with Us.” Brian Watson preached this sermon on December 19, 2021.

December 24, 2021

Here is the worship guide for Friday, December 24, 2021

PDF version of the worship guide to download or print.

The livestream will begin at 10:30 a.m. on our Facebook page or YouTube page.

A picture containing drawing Description automatically generated

Welcome and Announcements

Opening Prayer

Hymn: “Once in Royal David’s City”
Words: Cecil F. Alexander. Music: Henry J. Gauntlett.

Once in royal David’s city stood a lowly cattle shed,
where a mother laid her Baby, in a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild, Jesus Christ, her little Child.

He came down to earth from heaven, Who is God and Lord of all,
and His shelter was a stable, and His cradle was a stall:
with the poor, and mean, and lowly, lived on earth our Savior holy.

Jesus is our childhood’s pattern; day by day like us He grew;
He was little, weak, and helpless, tears and smiles like us He knew;
and He feeleth for our sadness, and He shareth in our gladness.

And our eyes at last shall see Him, through His own redeeming love;
for that Child so dear and gentle, is our Lord in heaven above:
and He leads His children on to the place where He is gone.

Hymn: “O Come, All Ye Faithful”
Words: Latin Hymn, ascribed to John Francis Wade. Music: John Francis Wade.

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant;
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem!
Come and behold Him, born the King of angels!

O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!

God of God, Light of Light eternal,
lo, he abhors not the virgin’s womb;
very God, begotten, not created;

O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!

Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation;
O sing, all ye citizens of heav’n above!
Glory to God, all glory in the highest!

O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to Thee be all glory giv’n;
Word of the Father, now in the flesh appearing!

O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!

Hymn: “O Little Town of Bethlehem”
Words: Phillips Brooks. Music: Lewis H. Redner.

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by;
yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above,
while mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wond’ring love.
O morning stars together proclaim the holy birth,
and praises sing to God the King, and Peace to men on earth!

How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive Him, still the dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray!
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today!
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Immanuel!

Sermon: “The City of David”
Luke 2:1–7 (ESV)

1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Hymn: “The First Noel”
Words: Traditional English Carol. Music: Traditional English Carol.

The First Noel the Angel did say,
was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay;
in fields where they lay keeping their sheep,
On a cold winter’s night that was so deep.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel, born is the King of Israel!

They looked up and saw a star
shining in the East beyond them far;
and to the earth it gave great light,
and so it continued both day and night.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel, born is the King of Israel!

And by the light of that same star
the wise men came from country far;
to seek for a King was their intent,
and to follow the star wherever it went.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel, born is the King of Israel!

Then let us all with one accord
sing praises to our heavenly Lord
Who hath made Heaven and earth of naught,
and with his blood mankind hath bought.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel, born is the King of Israel!

Hymn: “Joy Has Dawned”
Words and music: Keith Getty and Stuart Townend.

Joy has dawned upon the world, promised from creation—
God’s salvation now unfurled, hope for ev’ry nation.
Not with fanfares from above. not with scenes of glory,
but a humble gift of love—Jesus born of Mary.

Sounds of wonder fill the sky with the songs of angels
as the mighty Prince of life shelters in a stable.
Hands that set each star in place, shaped the earth in darkness,
cling now to a mother’s breast, vuln’rable and helpless.

Shepherds bow before the Lamb, gazing at the glory;
gifts of men from distant lands prophesy the story.
Gold—a King is born today, incense—God is with us,
Myrrh—His death will make a way. and by His blood He’ll win us.

Son of Adam, Son of heaven, given as a ransom;
reconciling God and man; Christ, our mighty champion!
What a Savior! What a Friend! What a glorious myst’ry!
Once a babe in Bethlehem, now the Lord of hist’ry.

Lighting of Candles

Hymn: “Silent Night, Holy Night”
Words: Joseph Mayr. Music: Franz Gruber.

Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright
round yon virgin mother and Child! Holy Infant so tender and mild,
sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night, shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar, heavenly hosts sing: “Alleluia!”.
Christ, the Savior is born, Christ, the Savior is born

Silent night, holy night, Son of God, love’s pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face with the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth, Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

Benediction

May God grant you the grace to be like the wise men, making every effort to worship King Jesus.
May Jesus, the Prince of Peace, grant you peace as you come to him.
May the Holy Spirit fill your heart with the love of God.
Merry Christmas. Go in peace.

 

December 19, 2021

Here is the worship guide for Sunday, December 19, 2021

PDF version of the worship guide to download or print.

The livestream will begin at 10:30 a.m. on our Facebook page or YouTube page.

A picture containing drawing

Description automatically generated

Welcome and Announcements

Opening Prayer

Hymn: “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming”
Words: 15th century German hymn; translated by T. Baker and K. Spaeth.
Music: German hymn.

Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming, as men of old have sung.
It came, a flower bright, amid the cold of winter,
when half-gone was the night.

Isaiah ’twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind;
with Mary we behold it, the Virgin Mother kind.
To show God’s love aright she bore to men a Savior,
when half-gone was the night.

This Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,
dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere;
true man, yet very God, from sin and death He saves us,
and lightens every load.

Hymn: “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing”
Words: Charles Wesley. Music: Felix Mendelssohn.

Hark the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King;
peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies;
with the angelic host proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ by highest heav’n adored; Christ, the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come, offspring of the Virgin’s womb:
veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail the incarnate Deity,
pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

Hail, the heav’n-born Prince of Peace! Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings, ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by, born that man no more may die,
born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.
Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

Hymn: “Fullness of Grace”
Words and music: Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty, and Stuart Townend.

Fullness of Grace in man’s human frailty; this is the wonder of Jesus.
Laying aside His power and glory, humbly He entered our world.
Chose the path of meanest worth; scandal of a virgin birth.
Born in a stable, cold and rejected: here lies the hope of the world.

Fullness of grace, the love of the Father shown in the face of Jesus.
Stooping to bear the weight of humanity, walking the Calvary road.
Christ the holy innocent took our sin and punishment.
Fullness of God, despised and rejected: crushed for the sins of the world.

Fullness of hope in Christ we had longed for, promise of God in Jesus.
Through His obedience we are forgiven, opening the floodgates of heav’n.
All our hopes and dreams we bring gladly as an offering.
Fullness of life and joy unspeakable: God’s gift in love to the world.

Time of Prayer

Sermon: “The Virgin Shall Conceive”

Isaiah 7:10–17 (ESV)

10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz: 11 “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” 13 And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. 15 He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. 17 The Lord will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father’s house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria!”

Luke 1:26–38 (ESV)

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And 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 call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Matthew 1:18–25 (ESV)

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from 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 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23  “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,

and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Hymn: “Thou Who Wast Rich”
Words: Frank Houghton. Music: French Carol “Quelle Est Cette Odeur Agreable.”

Thou who wast rich beyond all splendor, a
all for love’s sake becamest poor;
thrones for a manger didst surrender,
sapphire-paved courts for stable floor.
Thou who wast rich beyond all splendor,
All for love’s sake becamest poor.

Thou who art God beyond all praising,
all for love’s sake becamest man;
stooping so low, but sinners raising
heavenward by Thine eternal plan.
Thou who art God beyond all praising,
All for love’s sake becamest man.

Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Savior and King, we worship thee.
Emmanuel, within us dwelling,
make us what Thou wouldst have us be.
Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Savior and King, we worship Thee.

Benediction

2 Thessalonians 3:16 (ESV)
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.

 

Born King of the Jews

In the Old Testament, it was prophesied that Israel would have a king. Find out why the King of the Jews is not like other kings, and why we celebrate his birth. Brian Watson preached this sermon on December 12, 2021.

Wait for the Lord

God made several promises that one day, someone would come to make all things right. Someone would come to crush evil, bless the world, and rule over it. People of faith waited for a long time for these promises to come true. We are still waiting for Jesus to return to bring all of God’s promises to fulfillment. Brian Watson preached this sermon on December 5, 2021.

December 12, 2021

Here is the worship guide for Sunday, December 12, 2021

PDF version of the worship guide to download or print.

The livestream will begin at 10:30 a.m. on our Facebook page or YouTube page.

A picture containing drawing

Description automatically generated

Welcome and Announcements

Opening Prayer

Hymn: “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus”
Words by Charles Wesley, music by Rowland H. Prichard

Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth Thou art;
dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever, now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit rule in all our hearts alone;
by Thine all sufficient merit, raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Hymn: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

Words: Latin Hymn, trans. J. M. Neale, H. S. Coffin. Additional words by S. Cook, B. Kauflin.

Music: Plainsong (“Veni Emmanuel”)

O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall by His word our darkness dispel.

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer our spirits by Thine advent here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadow put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save, and give them victory o’er the grave.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall by His word our darkness dispel.

O come, Desire of Nations, bind all peoples in one heart and mind.
Bid envy, strife, and quarrels cease; fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel has banished every fear of hell.

Hymn: “Of the Father’s Love Begotten”
Words: Aurelius C. Prudentius. Music: Plainsong.

Of the Father’s love begotten, ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega, He the source, the ending He,
of the things that are, that have been,
and that future years shall see, evermore and evermore!

O ye heights of heaven adore Him; angel hosts, His praises sing;
powers, dominions, bow before Him, and extol our God and King!
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
every voice in concert sing, evermore and evermore!

Christ, to Thee with God the Father, and, O Holy Ghost, to Thee,
hymn and chant and high thanksgiving, and unwearied praises be:
honor, glory, and dominion,
and eternal victory, evermore and evermore!

Time of Prayer

Sermon: “Born King of the Jews”

We’ll look at several passages in the Old Testament about kings, including the following:

Deuteronomy 17:14–20 (ESV)

14 “When you come to the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ 15 you may indeed set a king over you whom the Lord your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. 16 Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ 17 And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.

18 “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, 20 that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.

Judges 8:22–23 (ESV)

22 Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” 23 Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you.”

Judges 17:6 (ESV)

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

1 Samuel 8:4–9 (ESV)

Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”

2 Samuel 7:8–16 (ESV)

“Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, 15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’”

Acts 13:16–23 (ESV)

16 So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said:

“Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen. 17 The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. 18 And for about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. 19 And after destroying seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance. 20 All this took about 450 years. And after that he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. 21 Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. 22 And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ 23 Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised.”

Hymn: “Thou Who Wast Rich”

Words: Frank Houghton. Music: French Carol “Quelle Est Cette Odeur Agreable.”

Thou who wast rich beyond all splendor,
all for love’s sake becamest poor;
thrones for a manger didst surrender,
sapphire-paved courts for stable floor.
Thou who wast rich beyond all splendor,
All for love’s sake becamest poor.

Thou who art God beyond all praising,
all for love’s sake becamest man;
stooping so low, but sinners raising
heavenward by Thine eternal plan.
Thou who art God beyond all praising,
All for love’s sake becamest man.

Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Savior and King, we worship thee.
Emmanuel, within us dwelling,
make us what Thou wouldst have us be.
Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Savior and King, we worship Thee.

Benediction
Romans 16:25–27 (ESV)

25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

 

December 5, 2021

Here is the worship guide for Sunday, December 5, 2021

PDF version of the worship guide to download or print.

The livestream will begin at 10:30 a.m. on our Facebook page or YouTube page.

A picture containing drawing

Description automatically generated

Welcome and Announcements

Opening Prayer

Hymn: “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus”
Words by Charles Wesley, music by Rowland H. Prichard

Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth Thou art;
dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever, now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit rule in all our hearts alone;
by Thine all sufficient merit, raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Hymn: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”
Words: Latin Hymn, trans. J. M. Neale, H. S. Coffin. Additional words by S. Cook, B. Kauflin.
Music: Plainsong (“Veni Emmanuel”)

O Come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.

O Come, Thou, Dayspring from on high and cause Thy light on us to rise;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night and death’s dark shadow put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O Come, O come, true prophet of the Lord, and turn the key to heaven’s door;
be Thou our comforter and guide and lead us to the Father’s side.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall by His word our darkness dispel.

O come, our great High Priest, and intercede; Thy sacrifice, our only plea;
the judgment we no longer fear; Thy precious blood has brought us near.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel has banished every fear of hell.

O come, Thou King of nations bring an end to all our suffering;
bid every pain and sorrow cease; and reign now as our Prince of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel, Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel,
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come again with us to dwell.

Time of Prayer

Sermon: “Wait for the Lord”

Genesis 3:14–15 (ESV)

14 The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
15  I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

Genesis 12:1–3 (ESV)

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Genesis 22:1–8 (ESV)

1 After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.

Genesis 22:15–18 (ESV)

15 And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

Genesis 49:8–10 (ESV)

“Judah, your brothers shall praise you;
your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
your father’s sons shall bow down before you.
Judah is a lion’s cub;
from the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He stooped down; he crouched as a lion
and as a lioness; who dares rouse him?
10  The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him;
and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

Hymn: “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us”
Words and Music: Stuart Townend.

How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure,
that He should give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss, the Father turns His face away
as wounds which mar the Chosen One bring many sons to glory.

Behold the Man upon a cross, my sin upon His shoulders.
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there until it was accomplished.
His dying breath has brought me life, I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything, no gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart, His wounds have paid my ransom.

The Lord’s Supper

Hymn: “There Is a Fountain”
Words by William Cowper, music: early American melody

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins,
and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains:
Lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilty stains;
and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in His day;
and there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away:
wash all my sins away, wash all my sins away;
and there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away.

E’er since by faith I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply,
redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die:
and shall be till I die, and shall be till I die;
redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.

When this poor, lisping, stamm’ring tongue lies silent in the grave,
then in a nobler, sweeter song, I’ll sing Your pow’r to save:
I’ll sing Your pow’r to save, I’ll sing Your pow’r to save;
then in a nobler, sweeter song, I’ll sing Your pow’r to save.

Benediction
Psalm 31:23–24 (ESV)

23  Love the Lord, all you his saints!
The Lord preserves the faithful
but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
24  Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the Lord!

 

November 29, 2020

Here is the worship guide for Sunday, November 29, 2020.

PDF version of the worship guide to download or print.

The livestream will begin at 10:30 a.m. on our Facebook page or YouTube page.

A picture containing drawing Description automatically generatedWelcome and Announcements

Opening Prayer

Hymn: “Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul”
Words by Anne Steele, music by Matt Merker

Dear refuge of my weary soul, on Thee, when sorrows rise,
on Thee, when waves of trouble roll, my fainting hope relies.
To Thee I tell each rising grief, for Thou alone canst heal;
Thy Word can bring a sweet relief for every pain I feel.

But oh! when gloomy doubts prevail, I fear to call Thee mine.
The springs of comfort seem to fail, and all my hopes decline.
Yet, gracious God, where shall I flee? Thou art my only trust;
and still my soul would cleave to Thee though prostrate in the dust

Hast Thou not bid me seek Thy face, and shall I seek in vain?
And can the ear of sovereign grace, be deaf when I complain?
No, still the ear of sovereign grace, attends the mourner’s prayer;
Oh, may I ever find access to breathe my sorrows there.

Thy mercy seat is open still, there let my soul retreat;
with humble hope attend Thy will, and wait beneath Thy feet.
Thy mercy seat is open still, here let my soul retreat;
with humble hope attend Thy will, and wait beneath Thy feet.

Hymn: “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus”
Words by Charles Wesley, music by Rowland H. Prichard

Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth Thou art;
dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever, now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit rule in all our hearts alone;
by Thine all sufficient merit, raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Time of Prayer

Isaiah 40:1–11 (ESV)

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.

A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.

Go on up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good news;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good news;
lift it up, fear not;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Behold your God!”
10  Behold, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
behold, his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
11  He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.

Hymn: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”
Words: Latin hymn, translated by John Mason Neale and Henry Sloane Coffin; music: Plainsong

O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer our spirits by Thine advent here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
from depths of hell Thy people save, and give them victory o’er the grave.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

O Come, Desire of nations, bind all peoples in one heart and mind.
Bid envy, strife, and quarrels cease; fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

Sermon: “Living on a Prayer”
Psalm 4 (ESV) A Psalm of David.

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have given me relief when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!

O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah
But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.

Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah
Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the Lord.

There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!”
You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

Hymn: “Before the Throne Above”
Words by Vikki Cook and Charitie Lees Bancroft, music by Vikki Cook

Before the throne of God above, I have a strong and perfect plea:
a great High Priest whose name is Love, who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands, my name is written on His heart;
I know that while in heav’n He stands, no tongue can bid me thence depart,
no tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair, and tells me of the guilt within,
upward I look and see Him there, who made an end to all my sin.
Because the sinless Saviour died my sinful soul is counted free,
for God the Just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me,
to look on Him and pardon me.

Behold Him there, the risen Lamb, my perfect spotless righteousness,
the great unchangeable “I Am,” the King of glory and of grace.
One with Himself, I cannot die; my soul is purchased with His blood.
My life is hid with Christ on high, with Christ, my Savior and my God,
with Christ, my Savior and my God.

Benediction
Numbers 6:24–26 (ESV)

24  The Lord bless you and keep you;
25  the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
26  the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

 

An Orderly Account

This sermon was preached on December 3, 2017 by Brian Watson.
MP3 recording of the sermon.
PDF of the written sermon, prepared in advance. (See also text below.)

Is anyone here into history? Do you read biographies and watch documentaries? If you do, you probably want to make sure that the author or documentarian knows what he or she is talking about. You want to make sure that this person has studied the relevant data and interviewed key sources. That’s one of the reasons I like reading. I like to see what resources the author used. So, I read every footnote or endnote, just to check that author’s work. The historian who uses early, reliable sources is more trustworthy than the one who uses late, legendary sources.

If you’re a history buff, you will know that historians frame their stories of the past in certain ways. Every historian is trying to achieve something by telling a story. There is no such thing as an objective, unbiased history. Every historian chooses a subject, and he or she also chooses which facts to include and which to exclude. And every historian presents their history in different ways. Some present their stories in strict chronological order. Some of those historians may begin with a lot of background information. So, a biographer might write about a person’s life by first writing about that person’s parents. Or, an historian might begin right in the thick of an event, and then later incorporate background information. So, a documentary on D-Day might begin with Allied Forces storming the beaches of Normandy, and then later recount the events that led to that crusade. How an historian frames his or her history matters.

Today, we’re going to begin studying a book of history, the Gospel of Luke. This is a story primarily about Jesus. Like any history, this story is intended to achieve some purpose. The word “gospel” literally means “good news.” This lets us know that this story isn’t just an interesting read about some trivial events. No, this is history that is meant to be good news for us, if we allow it to shape our lives.

We’re going to study the book of Luke for a few reasons. One, Christianity is quite obviously centered on Jesus Christ. We need to keep coming back to the stories about Jesus to be reminded of who he is, what he taught, and what he has accomplished for us. And we can’t just pick and choose the stories of Jesus that we like. We need to look at Gospels in their entirety. We’re a church committed to the Bible because we believe it is the written Word of God. Therefore, we often go through entire books of the Bible.

Two, we’re looking at Luke and not Matthew, Mark, and Luke because its opening chapters tell the story of Jesus’ birth, and that’s fitting as we approach Christmas.

Three, we’re looking at Luke because in 2016, I preached through the book of Acts. Acts is a sequel to Luke. Yes, I’m taking things out of order. So, think of Luke as a prequel to Acts, and we’ll be just fine.

Four, I’m preaching through Luke because it contains some hard teachings of Jesus. It would be easy to avoid these teachings. But if we did that, we would be creating a Jesus of our own desires and not looking at the Jesus of history. If we want to be Christians with integrity, we can’t do that.

So, we’re going to study Luke’s Gospel. Since we’ll spend a good amount of time in this book, I want to give us some background information. We know that this Gospel was written by a man named Luke because the earliest manuscript that we have of Luke (Ì75) says, “according to Luke.” Many early Christians also attributed this Gospel to Luke.[1] In fact, there was no doubt that Luke wrote this book until the middle of the nineteenth century, when biblical scholars became increasingly skeptical of the Bible’s authority. Their skepticism isn’t supported by the evidence, however. I think their skepticism is simply due to their lack of faith. Some people don’t want the Bible to be historically reliable and true because they don’t want the God of the Bible to be Lord over their lives.

So, who is Luke? According to the letters of the apostle Paul, one of Jesus’ early messengers, Luke was one of his faithful coworkers (2 Tim. 4:11) and a doctor (Col. 4:14). He may have been a Gentile or a Greek Jew. He may have been from Antioch, which is in Syria, north of Palestine, where the action in Luke’s Gospel takes place. That means he didn’t witness the events of Jesus’ life. But he seems to have been a sometime traveling companion to Paul on his missionary journeys, so he knew Paul. (In Acts, there are several “we” passages that indicate that the author was among Paul’s companions. See Acts 16:10–17; 20:5–8, 13–15; 21:1–18; 27:1–28:16). As we’ll see, he claimed to have interviewed eyewitnesses, so I’m sure he met other apostles, such as Peter and possibly James.

That’s enough background. Let’s start reading. We’ll begin by reading the first four verses of Luke.

1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.[2]

Luke begins by noting that others have compiled narratives about the things that God accomplished. These events were relayed to Luke and people like him by “eyewitnesses and ministers of the word.” There were many people who witnessed the events of Jesus’ life. There were the twelve disciples, of course. Two of them, Matthew and John, wrote Gospels, and Peter wrote two letters that are in the Bible. But others besides the disciples witnessed events like Jesus’ birth, his life, his teaching and preaching, his miracles, his death, and his life after he was resurrected from the grave. Some of these eyewitnesses were also “ministers of the word,” that is, they preached the message about Jesus, and they passed on such details to people like Luke, who we might call a second-generation Christian.

Luke says that he thought it would be good to write his own “orderly account” of these events, since he followed them closely for some time. He writes this book, and his sequel, the book of Acts, to someone named Theophilus. We don’t know who this is. He seems to be a person of some standing, perhaps a rich person who was a patron of Luke. We don’t know. But his name means “friend of God” or “lover of God,” and Luke writes to him so that he “may have certainty concerning the things [he has] been taught.” Luke wants Theophilus, and all the readers of this book, to know for certain the truth about what God has done through Jesus.

I’ve given a bit of background information at the beginning because I want us to see the claim that Luke is making. He says he is writing a careful account of the things he has learned from eyewitnesses. We should take that claim seriously. The New Testament documents were written by eyewitnesses or people who knew eyewitnesses. They are meant to be taken as historical documents. If the author of this book says that he interviewed eyewitnesses and wrote his history based on what they said, then we should take him at his word unless we have compelling reasons to believe otherwise.

That means that unless we have evidence to the contrary, we should accept the historicity of this book. We should accept that this book was written within a few decades after Jesus’ death and resurrection, when eyewitnesses were still alive. There’s a good reason to think that Luke completed Acts shortly after the year 62, which is when Paul was released from prison in Rome. He must have written his Gospel right before writing Acts. And Luke probably did much of his research while he accompanied Paul on his journeys. Paul, Luke, and others traveled to Jerusalem, where Paul was arrested. He was transferred to Caesarea Philippi, a city further north. Paul was there for two years, probably between the years 57 and 59, and during that time Luke surely was able to gather sources for this book. It seems that he used the Gospel of Mark as one source, but about 40 percent of Luke is unique and not shared with the other Gospels. This material might have come from other eyewitnesses, possibly people like Mary.

The point is that Luke claims to have written a book of history based on eyewitness testimony. From what we know of Luke and Acts, Luke was a careful historian. He places the events of these books within the broader history of the Roman Empire, and the details he recounts are accurate.

There’s a lot more that can be said about the historical trustworthiness of this book and the whole New Testament. If you want to know more, you can read that insert in the bulletin, “How We Can Know Jesus?” or listen to a sermon I gave three years ago by that same name.[3] But I want to highlight how import it is to know that the events in this book actually happened in the past. This is not a legend or a myth or some kind of fairy tale designed to make us feel good. Many skeptics believe this Gospel was written later in time. If someone fabricated it, why would they choose Luke as the author? Luke is relatively unknown. He wasn’t an apostle. If you were going to make up a Gospel, you’d name it after Peter or Judas or Mary. That’s what we see in false Gospels written late in the second century. No, this book is earth-shattering reality. It’s good news. If it weren’t real, it wouldn’t be good news at all. Entertainment, perhaps, but not good news.

Now, how does Luke begin his story? Does he start with Jesus? Actually, he starts with some lesser-known individuals. He begins with the story of a priest named Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth. Let’s read verses 5–7:

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. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

Luke tells us this story begins during the time when Herod the Great was king of Judea. He reigned from 37–4 B.C. And during the latter part of that time, there was a priest named Zechariah. There were perhaps as many as 18,000 priests in Israel at that time, so Zechariah was just one of many. His wife, Elizabeth, was related to Aaron, the first high priest. Notice that there are already a couple of Old Testament names given to us: Abijah and Aaron. There are many references and allusions to the Old Testament at the beginning of Luke. This reminds us that this is part of the continuing story we find in the whole Bible, which is a story of how God relates to people.

We’re told that both Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous. They obeyed God’s commands. We’re also told that they were incapable of having children, because they were old and Elizbeth was infertile.

Now, before we move on with the story, we have to see that this couple was obedient to God. The reason they didn’t have children wasn’t because they were being punished by God. Why then is anyone barren? And I don’t just mean incapable of having children. Why is life like this at times? Why are we frustrated. We do things not go the way we hoped they would go?

To understand, we have to know something of the whole story of the Bible. I only have time this morning to paint that story in the broadest strokes. But the story begins with God. He is perfect in every way, the greatest being who has ever existed. He is complete in himself. He had no need to create the universe or this planet or people, but he chose to for his own purposes. He made us to have a special relationship with him. He made us to be like him, to reflect what he’s like, to represent him, to worship, love, and obey him. But from the beginning, human beings have ignored God, turned away from him, rebelled against him, disobeyed him, and failed to love him. When that first happened, something we call “sin” entered into the world. Sin isn’t just a wrong action. It’s a power, an evil force that takes up residence within us. It distorts our desires, so we don’t love the things that are good for us and, instead, we love the things that are harmful. We are selfish and proud. We covet and are greedy. We fight.

Since God is perfect and pure, he cannot allow dwell with sin and sinful people, and he cannot allow sin to destroy his creation. As a partial punishment for sin, he cursed his creation. This does not mean that things are as bad as they could be. But things aren’t perfect. The world that was a paradise was lost. In its place, there is a world that has natural disasters, diseases, and death. And, worst of all, there is a separation between God and human beings. We don’t see God. We don’t always sense his presence.

So, the reason that things are barren is because of sin. But God is not only a holy God who judges and punishes sin. He is also a good God. Actually, the Bible says that God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). And because God is loving and merciful and gracious, he had a plan to save people from sin and the condemnation that comes with sin. It’s a long story, but it began with an old man named Abraham and his wife, Sarah. (At first, they’re called Abram and Sarai.) They, too, were unable to have children because they were old and because Sarah was barren (Gen. 11:30). Like Zechariah and Elizabeth, Abraham was obedient to God, keeping his commandments, statutes, and laws (Gen. 26:5).

God told Abraham that he would bless the whole earth through Abraham and his offspring, that his offspring would be a multitude of people, and that kings and nations would come from him (Gen. 12:1–3; 15:4–6; 17:5–6; 22:17–18). In other words, God would reverse the curse of sin through Abraham and his offspring, and that his descendants would populate the earth. When you stop and think about that, it sounds too good to be true. But if you’re Abraham, it sounds impossible. He’s an old man with an old wife who couldn’t have children when she was younger. And now he’s supposed to have children? This sounds like a bad joke. But Abraham has Isaac, and Isaac has Jacob, and Jacob has twelve sons who become the twelve tribes of Israel.

And Israel became a nation. God brought them out of slavery in Egypt. He performed miracles in their presence and gave them his law. He led them into their own land, where they settled and became a kingdom. Yet the Israelites still had the power of sin in them. They often disobeyed God and they started to worship other, false gods. Because of their disobedience and idol worship, God punished them through their enemies. God led the superpowers of their day, Assyria and Babylon, to attack Israel and bring people into exile. Jerusalem, the capital city, was destroyed, as was the temple.

Later, the people came back from exile in Babylon and settled back in the land of Judah. They built a new (and less glorious) temple and rebuilt the city. But they were still slaves (Ezra 9:9; Neh. 9:36). They were under the power of foreign kingdoms (ranging from Persia to Greece to the Roman Empire) and they were slaves to the power of sin. Even during the reign of Herod the Great, they were under the power of the Roman Empire. They were waiting for a promised Messiah, an anointed King, a descendant of Abraham and King David, who would defeat their enemies and usher in a reign of peace, justice, and righteousness that would last forever (Isa. 9:6–7; 11”1–16). In other words, the people were waiting for another exodus, for deliverance from exile.

Now, before we go in with the story, I understand that some of what I’ve said may sound very foreign. It may sound like something very distant and ancient. But wouldn’t you agree that we live in a world that seems cursed? No, it’s not all bad. But we have natural disasters, diseases, wars, fighting, and death. We have the internal curses of loneliness, depression, anxiety, and confusion. Don’t we all want deliverance from something? And what is able to deliver us? Do you think it’s the government? Your family and friends? Your job? Your money? Someone else’s money? People have tried all the things of the world and they haven’t worked. We’re waiting for deliverance that only someone from outside this world can give us.

That’s what the Jews were waiting for. They were waiting for God to act. They wanted him to get rid of the occupying forces of the Roman Empire. But what they really needed was a Savior.

Now, let’s get back to the story of Zechariah and his wife. Let’s read verses 8–17:

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. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 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. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 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. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 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.”

Zechariah belonged to one of twenty-four divisions of priests. Each division served at the temple for one week, twice a year. The temple was the place were God’s special presence was believed to dwell. It was where the people worshiped God, where they offered up sacrifices for sin and prayers. Sacrifices and offerings were presented twice a day at the temple. This included incense, which represented the prayers of the people (Ps. 141:2; Rev. 5:8; 8:3–4). Priests were the Israelites who mediated between God and other Israelites. They were the ones who made the sacrifices and presented the offerings. Priests were chosen to enter the temple by lot, which was sort of like flipping a coin or rolling dice. And it so happened that Zechariah was chosen to burn incense inside the Holy Place of the temple. This was a great honor and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

When Zechariah was in the temple, he saw something unusual: the angel Gabriel. Angels are servants of God and they are usually unseen. The Bible actually doesn’t make as much of angels as some people might imagine. It’s rare that they appear to someone. So, when this happens, you know something special is about to take place.

When Zechariah sees Gabriel, he is afraid. This is what happens when people see angels. They’re not cuddly little cherubs. But Gabriel tells John not to fear. Gabriel tells him that he has good news. God has heard Zechariah’s prayer. We don’t know what prayer he’s referring to, but it was probably a prayer in the past for a child. Gabriel says, against all odds, that Elizabeth will have a son who will be named John. John, or Ἰωάννης in Greek, is related to a Hebrew name that means “God is gracious.” God will graciously give this elderly couple a child. This child will bring joy and gladness not only to Zechariah and Elizabeth, but also to many, because he will be “great before the Lord.” This means that he will be great in God’s eyes, but it also hints at John’s role: he will be the forerunner of his cousin, Jesus. He will announce the Lord’s coming.

John will take a special vow. He won’t drink “wine or strong drink” because he is specially consecrated to God. Drinking wine and strong drink in the Bible is not inherently wrong.[4] But the Bible does condemn drunkenness (Prov. 20:1; 23:20–21, 29–32; Eccl. 10:17; Eph. 5:18). At any rate, John lived an ascetic lifestyle, refusing all comforts. His calling was unique.[5] He seems to be the only one in the Bible who was filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb. The God of the Bible is unique, for he is one Being in three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. When people have a relationship with the Son, Jesus, the Holy Spirit changes them and he lives inside of them. But John was filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment he existed. This shows that God’s hand was upon him in a special way.

John would perform a very special task. He would turn the hearts of Israelites back to God. He would do this the way the prophet Elijah had done hundreds of years earlier, when he also called people to turn away from sin and idolatry and back to God. One of the Old Testament prophets, Malachi, said that Elijah would return “to turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers” (Mal. 4:6). There, the idea seems to be that as people turn toward God, they start to be reconciled to each other. Peace with God leads to peace with others.[6] It seems that John fulfills the role of Elijah, but in Luke it says that he will “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just.” There’s no mention of the children turning to the fathers. Rather, the fathers, the older generation, have been disobedient and need to turn to the younger generation. This points to John’s role: he calls people to get ready for something new, when Jesus, the Messiah, comes. John tells the people to be prepared.

Let’s finish reading today’s passage to see what happens next. I’ll read verses 18–25.

18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 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. 20 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.” 21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 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. 23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

Zechariah seems to have some doubt. He wonders how he and his wife could possibly have a child. Because of his doubt, he is made mute. It also seems that he might have been deaf, as we’ll see in a couple of weeks (Luke 1:62). This might have given John some proof that Gabriel’s news would come true. It was also a mild punishment for Zechariah’s doubt. God expects people to trust him, even if his message seems impossible. The reason is that God is trustworthy, and he has a habit of doing the impossible.

Sure enough, John goes home to his wife and Elizabeth conceives. For some reason, she hides herself for months. It’s not clear why. Perhaps she did this as a way of consecrating herself to God’s service. It’s not clear, but it parallels the way her relative, Mary, remained hidden from her hometown for the early months of her pregnancy.

Now that we’ve gone through this passage, we should ask ourselves what it means for us. There are two main things I want us to get out of this morning’s passage. The first is that Luke says he wrote an historical account based on eyewitness testimony. These events really happened. A number of people simply can’t believe that a story containing supernatural elements, like angels and miracles, can be true. I understand why some people might doubt. I have never seen an angel or a miracle. But other people have. At any rate, I think we should ask ourselves this question: If nothing in the natural world can fix this broken world, shouldn’t we hope for supernatural help? If God exists, shouldn’t we expect a story about God’s acts in history to contain supernatural elements? I think the Bible would be rather odd without those elements. Should we expect God, who made the universe out of nothing, to give us a story about a man praying for money and then finding spare change under the couch cushions? Much more could be said about the reality of the existence of God and things like miracles. If you have doubts, I would ask you to suspend your disbelief and continue to learn more about Jesus by coming back next week.

The other thing I want us to see is that God brings life out of nothing, hope out of despair, fullness and joy out of barrenness. He causes people to turn to one another and be reconciled. And he does this through Jesus. In the case of Zechariah and Elizabeth, they couldn’t have children. They were literally barren. In the case of Israel, they had often been spiritually barren. The same is true of us. God doesn’t promise to give us children or wonderful relationships or health and wealth in this life. But he does bring spiritual life out of spiritual death. And, though we aren’t there yet, the end of the grand story of the universe is that God will one day recreate the world to be a paradise, where there is no more barrenness of any kind. There will be more diseases, no more natural disasters, no more fighting and wars, no more sin, and no more death. It will only be God and the people he has prepared for himself.

How does God bring fullness out of barrenness? How can he do that? He does that because Jesus, the eternal Son of God who was full of glory, became barren by becoming a man. He lived a perfect life of righteousness, always loving and obeying God the Father. And yet he died in our place when he was crucified. His death pays for all the sin of those who turn to him in faith. Jesus turns people to God, and when people truly turn to God, they are transformed. Lives are changed, relationships are healed. This doesn’t mean life is easy or that Christians are perfect. But it means that Christians have hope.

Come back to learn more about Jesus next week. For now, let’s pray.

Notes

  1. For a list of reasons why we can trust that Luke is the author of this Gospel, see Andreas J. Köstenberger, L. Scott Kellum, and Charles L. Quarles, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Croswn: An Introduction to the New Testament (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2009), 258–261.
  2. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV).
  3. That sermon and others can be found at https://wbcommunity.org/jesus. It can also be found at https://wbcommunity.org/how-can-we-know-jesus.
  4. Psalm 104:15 says that God gives “wine to gladden the heart of man.” According to Deuteronomy 14, Israelites could consume the “tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil” that they brought to Jerusalem when they worshiped there (verse 23). Or, they could bring money instead and “spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves” (verse 26).
  5. Samson and Samuel, two other “miracle babies,” had similar vows (Judg. 13:4–5; 1 Sam. 1:11).
  6. There also may be a hint that the Israelites would return to the ways of the Patriarchs, like Abraham. Isaiah 63:16 says, “Abraham does not know us,” because of their sin. When the Israelites return to God, they return to the faith of their fathers.