This Christmas, we are revisiting some of the teaching surrounding Jesus’ birth that we have looked at in our Luke series. I’ve entitled this teaching series, ‘Mary Treasured up These Things’ (from Luke 2:19) because my hope and prayer is that, like Mary, we will treasure the story the truths and the God of the Christmas story.
Today, we simply see that John is born to prepare the way for Jesus and God continues to prepare people, and often uses us, to make a way for Jesus.
You can listen to this devotional at:
‘When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbours and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.” They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.” Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. All the neighbours were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.’ (Luke 1:57-66)
1. Others heard and shared her joy
After the birth of John, we read of how ‘neighbours and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.’ This is a great lesson to us about how we may be able to share what God has done in our lives with friends and family. Do we prayerfully seek to share the gospel and the other ways that God has been working in our lives? Maybe God brought healing, provision, an encouragement… that you could ‘gossip’ about. It’s so important that we realise that our salvation and God’s work are for our joy but they are also for His glory among those outside of faith. We must not be ashamed of how God has saved and helped us, in fact it may help others to ‘share our joy’.
2. He is called John
In keeping with the Law of God (Lev.12:3), they circumcised John, and afterward they named him. However, everyone was astonished when Elizabeth declared that the child would not be named Zechariah after the father, but, that he was to be called John according to the direction of The Angel Gabriel. I hope that we can see that Elizabeth and Zechariah are prepared to break the expectations of others and risk being offensive in order to obey God. After Zechariah confirms Elizabeth’s name for John, his mouth is miraculously opened. Luke wants us to see Zachariah’s journey from unbelief to faith and obedience; and his ‘healing’ and praise further adds to the glory of God as we hear that, ‘All the neighbours were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things.’ It’s so good to know that, as with Zechariah and Elizabeth, our disappointments and mistakes in life can be turned around and used for the glory of God!
Verse 66 from our reading today is the main point of this section. Here we read,
‘Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him’.
These friends and relatives, and we ourselves, are to ‘ponder’ the promises regarding John as the one who will prepare the way for Jesus. We are to treasure and ponder the opening of the Christmas story with all of its rich narrative and divine promise. Today, may we simply see that John was born to prepare the way for Jesus and God continues to prepare people, and often uses us, to make a way for Jesus. Like Zechariah and Elizabeth, let’s play our part through faith and obedience to God.
COMMUNITY GROUP NOTES AND STUDY
It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.
In particular, we have services on Christmas Eve, Sunday 24th December 10:30am - 11:30am; Monday 25th December, Christmas Day Family Service
10am - 11am; and Sunday 31st December 10:30am - 12pm.
How has God been speaking to you from His Word this week and how has this helped you?
3. Worship together
Let’s begin our time together by lifting our eyes and hearts to worship our great God. Perhaps you have readings and songs that you would like to use together. Let’s be open to the gifts that the Spirit wants to give in order to encourage one another.
4. Study and pray together
This Christmas, we will revisit in more detail some the teaching surrounding Jesus’ birth that we have looked at in our Luke series. I’ve entitled this teaching series, ‘Mary Treasured up These Things’ (from Luke 2:19) because my hope and prayer is that, like Mary, we will treasure the story the truths and the God of the Christmas story.
Please be aware that we are producing devotionals to accompany this series and encourage you over the Christmas period.
Please read Luke 2:13-14
Why is it surprising and what is the message behind God appearing to shepherds specifically?
The angels promise, ‘Peace on earth’; what are the different kinds of peace that this refers to? (Try to find Bible verses that substantiate your thoughts).
What are the ways that one can enjoy the peace of God each day and over this Christmas period?
SIV - How would you being filled with God’s peace and being a peace maker make you an effective witness to the gospel?
SIV - How would you help a non-believer who pointed to war and suffering as a reason to doubt these words from the angels?
SIV - Do we have any recent stories of how we have ‘Served, Invested, and inVited’?
SIV - Lets now pray together that, this week, we will have opportunities to SIV.