Nativity of John the Baptist

SERMON

NATIVITY OF JOHN THE BAPTIST

JUNE 24, 2012

GOSPEL: ST. LUKE 1:57-80

It has been said that IF our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator. IF our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist. IF our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist. IF our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer. BUT our greatest need was FORGIVENESS, SO God sent us a SAVIOR!

I think we forget how desperate our need for forgiveness was. I wonder if we do not realize how great a need we had and still have for the grace of God and how great God is for providing that grace and forgiveness to us in the person of Jesus Christ. God is worthy of our praise.

In today’s gospel we learn that Elizabeth came to full term in her pregnancy and delivered the son God had promised through Gabriel. Several women showed up on the eighth day when the child was due to be circumcised and determined to name the boy Zach, Jr. However, Elizabeth told the women that his name was supposed to be John. Don’t you just love the response given by the ladies: “What? We’ve never done it that way before!” They questioned Zacharias about it, so he stepped in at this time and let everyone know that the boy’s name was indeed John, and when he communicated this fact, the Bible says that his tongue was loosed and he spake and praised God.

In fact he was filled with the Holy Ghost, he prophesied, saying, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel…” In other words, Zacharias told the people and in fact tells us that God is to be praised; He is adorable for some reasons that I want you to consider this morning. Why should we praise God? Why should God be worthy of our adoration?

Because He visited us.

There is a story about a wise and good king. He loved his people. He wanted to know how they lived. He wanted to know about their hardships. Often he dressed in the clothes of a working man or a beggar, and went to the homes of the poor. No one whom he visited thought that he was their king. One time he visited a very poor man who lived in a cellar. He ate the coarse food the poor man ate. He spoke cheerful, kind words to him. Then he left. Later he visited the poor man again and disclosed his identity by saying, “I am your king.” The king thought the man would surely ask for some gift or favor, but he didn’t. Instead he said, “You left your palace and your glory to visit me in this dark, dreary place. You ate the course food I ate. You brought gladness to my heart. To others you have given your rich gifts. To me you have given yourself!”

God did that for us. He gave Himself for us! The word visit means more than to drop in on. It has the idea of going with a desire to do something. In Philippians 2 we read: “He made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” The incarnation of Jesus Christ is an event that ought to solicit great praise from the hearts of men and women who love the Lord. “The word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” But He didn’t dwell among us because He was bored. He saw our pitiful condition and chose to do something about it.

And what did he do?  He redeemed us! He paid the ransom price! When man was sold into slavery to sin and was unable to help himself God paid the ultimate price. He gave Himself! Paul wrote to the church of Galatia that “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” This was not some new concept because long before Paul came along, long before there even was a law, Job wrote: “For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.” Hosea tells the story about the love of his life being put on the auction block, and when she had deserted him, had forsaken him, had gotten so low that she was being sold into slavery he bought her for himself. It is a beautiful picture of the love God has for us. Mankind deserted God but God purchased all of us for Himself.

Zacharias praised God because He had redeemed His people. He purchased mankind with the precious blood of Christ. (Remember this line in one of the old hymns: “Redeemed by the blood of the lamb?”

God has raised up a Horn of Salvation for all of us.  The horn of an animal is its weapon for defense and vengeance. It is a symbol of its power and strength, but it is also an animal’s ornament of beauty.  The word salvation, connected here with the word “horn” means that this “strength , or this mighty Redeemer was able to save. He was not weak or hindered in any way. There was no part of purchasing our salvation that was beyond His ability to bring to pass.

Zacharias said that God was to be praised because He visited, redeemed and raised up a horn of salvation for his people. Why is that note worthy? Because Christ has not even been born yet! Zacharias speaks about it as though it was already done when the One who would perform it had not yet come. What does that mean for us? It means first that he had great confidence in the God who made promises, and secondly that so far as God was concerned it was a done deal. God’s work of redemption had been worked out long before the world was even created by the God who sees the future just as plainly as He sees the past.

Why did God visit, redeem, and raise up a horn of salvation for His people? So His people would find protection from their enemies. Does that mean that when Hitler began killing them by the millions that God was a liar? When God promised mercy and to remember His holy Covenant was He just getting up their hopes?  No, not at all.  God was making a promise that will find its ultimate fulfillment when He sets up His kingdom here on earth. Just as surely as Zacharias could praise God for a past tense redemption that had not taken place yet, he could also praise God for keeping His promises that had not yet been fulfilled.

Do you worry about whether God will do what he has promised? Remember that God has been faithful in the past; He is faithful today and will be faithful tomorrow. God promised a Saviour and that this Saviour would come again one day to rule and reign in peace and righteousness. First He came as a meek and gentle lamb, but He will come again as a mighty Lion of the Tribe of Judah, because God keeps His promises.

God will perform the mercy promised to our fathers (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and others) He will remember His holy covenant. That oath that He swore to Abraham. That oath to us who by faith are the children of Abraham. We are the children of Abraham because of our faith in Jesus Christ as the Saviour.

That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve Him without fear.  He visited us, redeemed us, raised up a horn of salvation for us; therefore we need to serve Him without fear, in holiness, in righteousness, and for life. We need to serve Him not only with our lips, but also the actions that flow from our hearts. 

God visited us in the form of the virgin born God-man, Jesus Christ. This God that we adore sent His only begotten Son into this world so He might live a sinless life and die a substitutionary death for you and me, redeeming us from sin, death and hell. Because of His resurrection from the grave we have the Horn of Salvation.

Zacharias prophesied these wonderful truths that day long ago, turned to his son and said: “And thou child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways.” John had the special privilege of preaching and proclaiming the gospel of Christ so people might be prepared for His first coming. You and I have the privilege of preaching and proclaiming the gospel of Christ so people might be prepared for His second coming.

We need to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins. We need to declare to them that it is only through repentance and faith that their sins can be forgiven.  Our job is not to tell people how good they are. We need to tell them that the one and only way to heaven is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We need to share that message through the tender mercy of our God. There is such a shortage of mercy in the world today. We like to believe in justice and equity. We like to tell people what we would do if we were God, but God is not John Wayne or Clint Eastwood. NO, there is no “Old West” justice in God’s economy.  God’s way is the way of mercy. We must share the gospel through the tender mercy of our God. He showed us mercy when we did not deserve it, so we need to treat people with grace and mercy.

We need to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. We need to guide their feet into the way of peace. Satan, the god of this world has blinded the minds of them that do not believe. The lost live in a world of darkness, they have grown accustomed to the darkness. God wants you to shine the light. You are the light of the world. It is our duty to show people that in a world of hostility and war, hurting and strife, that peace will come with Christ’s return. Christ first came to this earth to die for our sins. We need to step out of the darkness into the light and experience His tender mercy and guide our feet in the way of peace.

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He hath visited and redeemed His people. He hath raised up a horn of salvation for us, He keeps His promises. He has extended to each one of us the privilege of serving Him. Let us go forth today in joy to love and serve our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.   

 

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