LEAPING FOR JOY (Sermon Notes from 12/13/15)

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Luke 1 sets the stage for the birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. It begins with the angel Gabriel telling Zechariah the priest that his wife, Elizabeth, will have a son. They are to name their son John and he will be a prophet who will bring many of the people in Israel back to the Lord their God. He will also prepare the people for the coming of their Savior.

The story continues in Luke 1:26-45: In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

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

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

There are three main characters in this passage – Mary, Elizabeth and John. All of them are chosen by God to play a part in his plan to send the Messiah and they are excited about it. When Mary discovered she was chosen to be the mother of Jesus, she hurried off to see Elizabeth. When Elizabeth saw Mary, she blessed Mary in a loud voice. John leaped for joy in his mother’s womb. They all acted like this because they were overjoyed to be part of what God was doing.

If we read the rest of Luke and the other Gospels, we see that both Jesus and John faced great difficulties. John lived in the desert, wore clothes made of camel’s hair and ate locusts. Jesus and his family lived as exiles in Egypt for a few years because Herod wanted to kill Jesus. When they returned to Israel, by all accounts it appears they were as poor as the rest of the people around them. Both John and Jesus were killed by authorities who opposed what God was doing. As parents to John and Jesus, Elizabeth and Mary watched their children face opposition and persecution from the very people they came to help.

Following God isn’t always easy.

Mary, Elizabeth and John were excited about what God was doing through them. In their obedience to God, they faced trials, hardship and even death. Yet they persevered and completed the work God gave them to do. Many times we’re excited about what God is doing right in front of us and we are so glad to be part of what’s happening. But do we persevere and complete our mission when trials and hardships come as a result of our faithfulness to God? Or, do we lose our joy and quit?