Advent Wonder

Advent Wonder


Author: Gareth Russell Date: Sunday, December 6, 2015 Campus:

Grand Union Vineyard Church

Sunday 6th December 2015

This week we begin a new series. We begin celebrating the rescue plan. We begin immersing ourselves in God became human so that He could save us from eternal separation from Him.

I know that Christmas is not an easy season for everyone. For some of you it will remind you of those who have been close to you at some stage in your life and for whateverreason are no longer with you. For others of you, you may feel the pressure of having to keep up with the increasing demands of consumerism. For others of you, it may be a time of joy, of rest and of celebration.

But here’s the thing. Whatever we have made this season, this series is not really anything to do with that.

We are here to celebrate Jesus. We all are sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God.

We know it and God knows it.

God created us. But we rebelled. God being perfect could not be in relationship with beings that were filled with sin.

He could have written us off. He could have destroyed the human race and started again.

He didn’t.

In fact He did the opposite. He knew the only way to remove sin was to remove its power

- the power of death. To pay it’s price.

It needed a perfect sacrifice to take on our sin. It needed God. It needed Jesus.

So because God loved us so much, He sent Jesus. He sent Jesus so that we did not need to die, but rather we would live and we would live forever with Him…as it was meant to be.

That’s what we are celebrating.

We are celebrating the gift of life.

In this series we are going to focus on a number of gifts. It is a season for giving and receiving gifts. And the Christmas story is full of gifts.

Let’s read Luke 1:39-56

“At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voiceshe exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.

His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants for ever, just as he promised our ancestors.’ Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.”

Music is a powerful thing.

Music can evoke tears. It can transport you back to particular experiences in your life. Itcan bring you great joy. It can also be irritating (Jedward, Cheeky Girls).

Music often speaks to the deepest parts of our souls.

The first gift in the Advent story is a song. As we read about Mary and Elizabeth in Luke 1:39-56 we discover two women who choose to surrender their lives to God’s will and to do so in joy.

We were reading from the NIV version of the Bible, but there is an older translation called The King James version and it has Elizabeth introducing Mary’s song with these words: ‘And blessed is she that believed; for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord’ (v. 45).

The KJV translators chose the word ‘performance’ because they deeply understood that this song would be sung through the centuries by all types of people, because it is an expression of joy.

It is probably more accurate to say, as the NIV does, ‘Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil his promises to her!’, but there is something beautiful about there being a performance underlying Mary’s song: the scene was set for the great joy of a saviour, the long-awaited saviour, being born.

These two women could not be more different.

Elizabeth is ‘well on in years’ and barren; a descendant of Aaron’s priestly family (and therefore she has respect, status); married to the priest Zechariah. They live in a Judean hill community and have been settled for many years.

On the other hand, Mary is a teenager from humble origins. Engaged to marry the carpenter Joseph, she finds herself pregnant with a baby that cannot be his—grounds for stoning to death, according to the Torah.

Mary is in a precarious place; she couldn’t be more unsettled.

These isolated and lonely women aren’t brought together by commonalities or differences. What joins them is Spirit-birthed joy.

Until they meet, each is troubled, scared. Alone, they are entering places they never imagined. But now they share the experience of an unexpected pregnancy; a first child for each of them. They spend three months of seclusion together (Luke 1:56).

What did these two seemingly very different women do together for three months? They sang; they worshipped; they studied the word of God in a house that had no male voice (Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah, because he did not believe his barren wife would

have a promised child, had been struck mute by the same angel Gabriel who visited Mary). Mary and Elizabeth sang in worship and joy—they ‘performed’. As he was mute, Zechariah had to listen to them read and sing. He would get his moment

to worship, when after his son John was born he himself broke into song (Luke 1:67-79). You and I are all a part of God’s beautiful plan. There are times of great joy and there are times of great sadness. But whatever season we are in, when there is that depth of relationship with God and

when we have that sense of intimacy…there our hearts sing.

There may be seasons when your heart sigs a song of lament, but there will also be seasons where your heart sings songs of worship, songs of joy. Our souls were made to worship. Our souls were made for God’s pleasure. Where our

souls meet the understanding of who God is and how great His love for us is, that is where worship is produced. Mary and Elizabeth understood this.

Their joy is contagious. They knew now the truth. For generations, their people had waited for a saviour. They were waiting for the Messiah.

In these beautiful moments, an elderly woman and a teenager come to the realisation that God has been faithful. God has answered those prayers. God has sent a saviour. And not only that, both these women will be playing a starring role in the rescue plan. Can you imagine that moment? It may have been a sudden realisation. Maybe it was gradual over those three weeks. But just put yourself in their shoes…. Mary, it’s happening. It’s really happening!!! God is going to save us! Elizabeth, God is in me. I am going to give birth to the saviour of the world. How could they not just burst into worship? I wouldn’t be able to contain myself? Years of waiting. Years of questioning. Years of doubt.

The saviour is coming as Zechariah says, ‘to give his people knowledge of salvationthrough the forgiveness of their sins’ (Luke 1:77)

And do you know what the most amazing thing is?

We are a continuation of that same story.

Some of you like Elizabeth have been waiting for a very long time, you’ve maybe given uphope for what you thought God might do through you.

Elizabeth’s story is clear, that it is never too late with our God. His timing is, and always will be perfect.

She played a pivotal role in her 80s in the story of the coming saviour. Her son, John prepared the way for Jesus. He was the opening act in what was the most incredible act of this eternal performance.

For some of you, like Mary, life has not quite gone the way you thought it would. You had an expectation for the trajectory of your life and various life experiences have changedthat.

But God is in it. God is with you…there may be moments you feel lonely, you feel scared, you feel confused.

But you are a part of the plan, you are playing a starring role in God’s great performance. The scene is set, the curtains are raised and you just have to walk on stage and be used by God in a way that only He knows can truly bring you fulfilment, contentment and pure pure joy.

Both Mary and Elizabeth had to trust God. They were not passive in this story. They actively chose to believe that God had it in hand and that His ways were higher than their ways, that His thoughts were greater than their thoughts.

In this story, God has performed two birth miracles and in response Mary and Elizabeth compose a song.

In the midst of uncertainties, they join in worship to God. ’My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour... for the Mighty One has done great things for me—Holy is his name’ (Luke 1:45-46).

There is joy in salvation.

In Psalm 51 King David, after his great sin with Bathsheba, sings in prayer, ‘Restore to me the joy of your salvation’ (v. 12).

He doesn’t say ‘my’ salvation; David sings ‘your’ salvation.

David knows there is nothing he can do to obtain salvation. It is a gift from God. He desires joy to return to him as he acknowledges his failings. And it does. Just as Zechariah’s voice is restored to him, so is the Shepherd King David’s.

Separated by centuries, they are connected by songs of joy after failings.

Whatever your life circumstances right now, there is joy (real joy) in the knowledge that you are saved.

You may be confused, you may be scared, you feel a weight of guilt, but this morning I am here to tell you, that you are saved. It may be that you are hearing this for this first time, or it may be today God is reminding you for the 100th time.

You are saved.

This morning my prayer for all of us would be that He would restore to us the joy of His salvation and that He would open our lips so our mouths can bring Him praise.