Advent: Christ’s Birth Announced

Advent: Christ’s birth announced (Lk. 1: 5-25)
Dear Listeners,
Last week we started with Luke 1 as a series of Advent messages. Advent means “coming,”
hence in these weeks before Christmas we focus on the coming of Jesus Christ into
this world, on His birth. Although it is a good thing to consider the Advent of the Christ
during these weeks before Christmas, we have to do so as people who are living long after
His coming! In fact, we pay this attention to the Advent of the Saviour in a time in
which we ourselves anticipate His second coming! For us it’s a time of Advent the whole
year through, for centuries already! Or is it? Do we truly expect His coming? Or is it just
a matter of us knowing that He comes, for that’s what the Bible says; yet, it doesn’t really
function in our life? Perhaps you pray, “Your Kingdom come,” but does the coming of
the King determine your life? I know that many are saying, “I know that He will come,
but I don’t really count on it; He won’t come, not in my time anyway.” If that is so, they
may be mistaken. Sure, the time of His coming may seem long, yet He is coming! We
must long for this time, expecting that He could come in our time indeed! That’s what we
can learn from Zechariah, the priest. That’s what the gospel in Luke 1: 5-25 concerning
Christ’s first coming teaches us! Please read this passage if you can!

When we look at the circumstances, dear listeners, and consider the facts concerning
the progress of the church in the world, we may question whether the Christ will ever
come. The facts make the fulfilment of God’s promise seem impossible. Behind this
world, however, is the reality of God’s faithfulness! His Word teaches us to move on in
history confidently, assured that God will fulfil His Word. It may look dark in the
world. The church may be facing much misery in the midst of it. Yes, also in your personal
life there may be the feeling sometimes that God is absent. Still, He is there! He has
come and He will be coming! The light of Christmas has lit up this world in the coming of
its Saviour, and it will once more! The great change in the history of the world did take
place once already, and it will again! In a world that was filled with enmity, suppression,
and insignificance for the people of God, the great turn-about did take place! How?
When? Through prayer! At the hour of prayer in the temple, that’s where and when it
came! That’s what Zechariah learned. He heard the beginning of the gospel of it in the
message concerning the birth of his son, who would be the herald of the king!
What a beautiful day it was in the life of Zechariah when the lot was cast and the
LORD determined that he would serve in the temple that day. Although the priests
served in the temple for a week twice a year, it usually happened only once in a priest’s
life time that he was chosen by lot to bring the incense into the holy part of the temple!

For Zechariah, however, the day became more beautiful yet because of the things that
happened while he went about his tasks in this service! During the evening offering on
the Sabbath most likely, the people of God are together for prayer. They pray for the fulfilment
of the promises, the fulfilment of the sacrifices, for the coming of the blood of the
Lamb that will give Himself for the life of His people! Prayers go up for the coming of
the great king, who would topple Herod’s throne! God’s people pray for the fulfilment
of the Advent of the Saviour and Redeemer as prophesied! It’s at that moment that God
reacts to these prayers. It’s at that time that Zechariah’s day becomes more beautiful yet!
Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.
To Zechariah, who is standing there, startled and trembling with fear, he says,
“Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.”
“You prayer has been heard!” the angel said. What prayer? Whose prayer? The prayers
of both Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth and the prayer of God’s people Israel! Elizabeth
will bear a son who will bring the grace of God to His people. He will be a joy and
delight to you, the angel said, and to many! Their son John will get a great place in
God’s plan of salvation! He will be the herald of the Messiah, Jesus the Christ, even! He
will bring back those who have strayed from the LORD and prepare the hearts of parents
and children for the coming of the Saviour! That may seem unlikely, to Zechariah and
Elizabeth because they are passed the age of child-bearing, and to the people of Israel
who no longer expected the fulfilment of His promises anymore. Yet, at this time the
LORD places the prayers of Zechariah and his wife, as well as the prayers of the people
Israel in the larger context of His plan of salvation! He gives his personal prayers a place
on the way of redemption via Christmas, Easter, and the return of Christ! That’s a wonderful
message for Zechariah and for us today! What an encouragement this message is,
dear listeners, for the church today, the church of the new dispensation that’s awaiting
the Second Advent!
This announcement of the birth of John, the herald, dear listeners, and implicitly the
announcement of the birth of the King Jesus Christ, came to a people in serious decline. O
sure, there still were people who were looking forward to the redemption of Israel,
people like Zechariah and Elizabeth for instance, yet the majority of the people did no
longer; yes, even among the faithful ones they did not await the birth of the Saviour for
their salvation, for their deliverance from sin and guilt! What a moment therefore this
was, when the angel of the LORD comes down from God and announces the new time
that’s coming! It will be John’s calling to bring the people back from wickedness, back
from a worldly lifestyle, to the LORD in a sincere repentance from sin! That’s how the
LORD wants to see His people when He comes! Living in the advent of the Lord, there3
fore, means living for the Lord, ready and willing to serve Him! Hence, the question is
relevant today: are you ready for the Advent of the Lord?

Let’s learn an important lesson from this story about Zechariah, dear listeners. Was he
ready? Was he expecting the coming of the Messiah? He prayed for it and he spoke
about it, but was he doing so in the real anticipation that the Christ would come; in his life
time? According to God’s Word, His promises and prophecies? No! Zechariah’s reaction
to the message of the angel is one of unbelief! Believing in the fulfilment of God’s promises,
dear listeners, appears very difficult, even for a believer and priest like Zechariah!
He wanted a sign, which he received in being dumb (i.e. unable to speak) until the day
his son will be born, which is a sign signifying his unbelief. It means that the message of
the Advent of Israel’s redemption remains unheard! Hence, it appears possible to be an
upright believer in the sight of God, to know the whole Word of God, and yet remain
unfruitful, unbelieving, for the coming of the kingdom of God, for the coming of the Saviour
of the world! The LORD, however, does not depend on us for the execution of His
plans! It was the time of the Advent of the Saviour, and He did come! It’s the time of the
Advent still, and He comes, whether we believe it or not! When He comes, will He find
you longing for His coming, expecting Him in faith, and rejoicing at the completion of His
salvation, in response to His Word, to this message as well?

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