Sunday, December 16, 2018

Advent -- Rejoice! Our Savior Is Born As The Humble King.


Good morning!
Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
               and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:13-14)

When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron.  Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations.  They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.

One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week.  As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying.

While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.”

Zechariah, initially, did not believe what was told by the angel, and said, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” 

Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news!  But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.”    Zechariah couldn’t speak since then, and soon Elizabeth, Zechariah’s wife, became pregnant.   The baby became later John the Baptist as prophesized by the Book of Isaiah:

A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
       the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
       a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
       every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
       the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
      and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”  (Isaiah 40:3-5)

John the Baptist indeed prepared the hearts of the people suffering and in hunger for justice under the Roman’s occupation, and gave hope of Messiah and the kingdom of heaven to the people gathered around him in the wilderness.   

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy of John the Baptist, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David.  Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”

Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.  “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God!  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.  He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.  And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month.  For nothing is impossible with God.”

Mary believed what was told by the angel, and responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” (Luke 1:38a)  Her faith pleased the angle, and the angel left her.  

Upon hearing the news about the pregnancy of Mary’s relative Elizabeth in her old age, she hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth.   At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed.  Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me?  When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy.  You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”

Mary responded with her song of praise, which is known as “The Magnificent.”   Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back to her own home.  

Before the marriage took place, Joseph, Mary’s fiancé, realized that she was pregnant.  Joseph,
Mary’s fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.    As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through Isaiah:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.   (Isaiah 7:14)

When Joseph woke up, he believed.   Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her. (Immanuel means “God is with us.”)

When the baby, our Lord, Jesus Christ, was almost due, the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire.  All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census.  And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee.  He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant because the baby was almost due.   

When the family arrived in Bethlehem, all of the inns were full.   They could not find a room, but the found a place where animals were.   Because the time came for her baby to be born, they stayed night in the stable.   She gave birth to her first child, a son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, the Messiah.   She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger.

Our Lord, the King of kings, was laid in a manger instead of the comfortable crib at a palace.   Our Lord, Jesus Christ, came as a humble king.  He came to serve, not being served and give Himself as a ransom for the sins of those who believe in Him.   The world was quiet, and nobody knew the birth of our Savior in the land of Judea. 

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.  Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.  The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!  And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12)

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” (Luke 2:14)

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.  All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.  The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

Our Savior, Jesus Christ came to the world as a humble king, not as kings that we usually know of on earth.   Our Savior came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.   This is the Good News, especially for those who believe in Him!    Let’s come to the Lord, and praise with the loudest voice “Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the LORD!  Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!”  (Luke 19:38)   Praise Him!  Give thanks to Him!




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