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Jesus Messenger Is Born





Description: John the Baptist is the town crier that prepares all Israel to meet their King and Savior. Luke uses the birth of John the Baptist in much the same way to prepare us for the birth of our Savior.

Keywords: Gospel, Jesus, God, Luke, narrative, Son of God, Bible, Sermon, Bible Fellowship Church, BFC, Whitehall, Northern Lehigh

Date: December 13, 2015

Series: Luke

Speaker: Pastor Tim

Church: Whitehall

Scripture: Luke 1:57-80

Video: Watch this Sermon

Audio: Listen to this Sermon (time 43:27)

Notes: Read Sermon Notes

Transcript (new way)
1 “Jesus’ Messenger is Born” (Luke 1:57-80) CLARENCE REHRIG: I think we all found it by now. “Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. “And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, but his mother answered, No; he should be called John.’ And they said to her, ‘None of your relatives is called by this name.’ And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And they all wondered. “And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, ‘What then will this child be?’ For the hand of the Lord was with him. “And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying: ‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for 2 us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the Sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” And may God bless the reading of his word. PASTOR SCHMOYER: All right, friends. Two things you’ll need: sermon notes, the green sheet, and your connection card here. So we’ll walk through the text together using those two things. So we’re talking about Jesus’ messenger, the forerunner, John the Baptist. John the Baptist is now born. His name shall be called John. Elizabeth and 3 Zechariah both agreed on this point. I’m looking up at the graphic on the screen. This is to set the mood for Christmas, and actually next Sunday we’re going to get to this story, Jesus born in a barnyard. You know, when your mom was yelling at you because of your messy room, she would ask you, “Were you born in a barnyard?” And no one could answer yes except our Lord. I wonder if he kept his room tidy. He probably did. But he was, he was born in a manger, he was born in a barnyard. But just so you know, like John wasn’t born in a barnyard. The graphic is to set the mood for Christmas. Okay? But John is born today, the messenger, the forerunner. He’s the guy that goes on ahead of Jesus to prepare everyone so that they’re ready to listen when Jesus comes on the scene. John would grow up, and we read in verse 80, “The child grew, became strong in spirit.” He began in his public ministry, he was leading many people to confess their faults before God so that they were ready to hear from Jesus, who was full of grace and full of truth. But here John is born, and it’s necessary for us to mark this as part of the Christmas story. This isn’t just FYI. This is part of the Christmas story, 4 that before Jesus is born his introducing act performs, he comes on the scene, John the Baptist. Well, the theme of today is really looking at it through Zechariah’s perspective, because like you and I, Zechariah had some doubts about God, had some lack of faith in God, and we read just a couple Sundays ago in the middle of chapter 1 where Zechariah is talking to the angel. Look in chapter 1 verse 18. So the angel is telling Zechariah, you, old man, and your wife, this old woman, together you have been waiting to have a child. You’ve been barren these many long years, now in your old age you’re going to have a son. His name is going to be John, and he’s going to go on ahead of the Lord to prepare God’s people to hear from the Lord Jesus. And Zechariah in verse 18 says to the angel, How could this possibly be? How can this be? “How will I know this? I’m an old man, my wife is advanced in years.” What do we say about verse 18? If you could use one word to talk about Zechariah’s position, his reaction before God, what word would you use to describe Zechariah, verse 18? Doubt, disbelief, lack of trust. That’s three words, lack of trust. All right. But this is the kind of spirit that was within 5 him. He had waited so long, he got to this place of just utter disbelief. God, I believe you exist. I just don’t believe you’re going to act in my life. I’m done praying about this. It’s interesting. The angel began the story, “Your prayers have been heard,” verse 13. “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah, your prayers have been heard.” Well, I think, based on verse 18, he had stopped praying a long while ago. So the prayers from 20, 30, 40 years earlier are now finally being acted upon. I just want to encourage you, never lose faith; never doubt, never lack trust that your prayers are useful, they are effective. Your Father in heaven does hear what you bring to him. So whatever is in your heart, whatever is making you discomforted, whatever is making you faint; you’re ready to throw in the towel. Whatever is bringing you sorrow, bring those things to the Almighty. He hears. But Zechariah, he lost trust. He disbelieved. And so now all this time later, nine months later, now the baby actually comes out. The time came for Elizabeth to give birth; she bore a son. And what we see about this section, verses 57 to 66, the prose of the passage, is that Zechariah, though disciplined, is 6 now restored. Because you’ll remember, what happened with Zechariah? He did not trust God, and what did the angel do? He struck him mute. Now Zechariah can’t talk for these nine months. Imagine Elizabeth, how lonely she must have been. Her husband is there the whole time, never talks to her. That happens all the time, right? Invest in your family, men. Be strong, act like men, talk. And Zechariah was punished. And perhaps you might feel like, I don’t have anything to say. Say something. Because if God would strike you mute, there would be an awful lot that you would actually want to say. All right. So he’s being disciplined for these nine months. In our fast-food, sitcom society, if something doesn’t get resolved in 30 minutes, we think there’s a major, major problem. This took nine months of discipline before God finally acted in Zechariah’s life. The neighbors, the relatives all heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, verse 58. They all rejoiced with her. So Elizabeth is now rejoicing, everyone is celebrating. This new baby is born to this old woman. How hilarious, how joyful; lots of laughter, lots of jubilation. I’m sure that people were connecting the dots 7 back to Abraham and Sarah who in their old age, 99-year-old dad, 90-year-old mom, now they give birth to this boy, Isaac. And what does his name mean, Isaac? Laughter. Because, number one, they both laughed at God; and number two, now who’s got the last laugh? Well, it’s God. And I’m sure lots of people are reminiscing back to that day of Abraham and Sarah 2,000 years earlier; and now they’re all laughing, they’re celebrating, they are pointing and directing their thanks to God. It says that God had shown mercy to her, and so they rejoiced. You know, last week we talked about being in community with people; that when you’re going through a season of difficulty, when you’re going through a season of doubt or discouragement, you need to join with people, to weep with those who weep. And today I’m sharing with you in verses 67 and 68, listen, joining in community also for the purpose of praise, celebration, laughter. The scripture says weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice; and so in the passage they’re rejoicing with Elizabeth, with Zechariah. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, verse 59, and they would have called him Zechariah after his father. You know, just like 8 today, back then there was a lot of community pressure. The mother-in-law thinks you should name the child Bob, and the other mother-in-law says you should name him Billie, and so you just throw your dice and say, well, let’s call him Billie Bob. I don’t know. I mean there’s a lot of community pressure, because the text says they would have called him Zechariah. And so everyone’s pitching in; let’s call him this, let’s call him that. You know, there weren’t any mother-in-laws in this story to say, I think you should call him this, I think you should call him that, because Zechariah and Elizabeth, they themselves are in old age. Their moms, their dads were long gone. It’s not like today. We have kids when we’re 20, when we’re 25 or 30, and so the in-laws are all there. But there’s a lot of community here. The community said, let’s call him Zechariah just like his pa, just like his dad. But mom, Elizabeth, verse 60, is saying no, no, no. We need to call him John. How did Elizabeth know to call him John? First of all, the angel back nine months ago said to Zechariah, “His name shall be called John, and he’ll be considered mighty in the sight of men and of God. God’s spirit will rest on him, he’ll be John.” 9 How did Elizabeth know that that’s what the angel told Zechariah? Because even when you can’t talk, there are ways to figure it out, either sign language . . . I don’t know if they learned ASL before the baby was born. That’s a joke because American Sign Language wasn’t around yet. Or later in the same passage he asks for a chalkboard to write down the name John. So perhaps they were communicating via text message, and so Zechariah through text message explained to his wife, look, this is what happened, this is why I can’t talk. We’re going to have a kid, nine months later we’re going to celebrate. Here’s why I can’t talk. I still love you, but I can’t talk right now. And so she is left by herself to express: The angel said we need to call the kid John. We’re going to call the kid John. Here’s mom all by herself. And so they started motioning to dad. All right? None of your relatives is called by this name, so they asked dad, What should we call the kid? And it’s so funny, it’s so funny, because in verse 62 they were making signs to the father. I don’t know. How do you say Zechariah in sign? I have no idea. Do they spell it out? That’s a modern invention. And thank God for it, right, sign language. But they were making 10 motions. You? Baby? I don’t know how they were making signs. So finally, verse 63, he asked for a writing tablet. He wrote down, “His name is John.” And everyone, everyone wondered. This is why I throw it in with the Christmas celebration because they wondered. And later on in the next chapter next Sunday, chapter 2, Jesus is born, the shepherds come to worship baby Jesus, and what does it say? Everyone wondered about all these things. And “I Wonder As I Wander.” Okay? And we have these songs about wondering. In other words, God is doing something so farcical, like these old people are going to have a baby. Now next week this virgin, impossible, is going to have a baby. God is doing so many amazing, impossible things, and they’re all wondering, what is going to happen to this kid because of all of this circumstance? It’s not every day that these senior citizens have a baby, so something is going to happen with this kid. Verse 64. As soon as he says his name is John on the tablet, all right, text message, that immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue was loosed. He spoke blessing God. And what do we see in this passage? We see that God restores people after he disciplines 11 them; that God’s discipline is for a moment, but his love is for a lifetime, friend. You need to get that through; that when we disobey, when we doubt, when we lack faith, when we transgress his commands, God does discipline us, not because he’s mad but because he’s tender and gracious. And a gracious, loving dad doesn’t let us get away with murder. He says, oh, son, oh, daughter, let me help you be a better person. And yeah, there’s going to be pain in the moment, but that life lesson is going to carry you through and it’s going to take you to the next step of faith. Discipline hurts, but it’s only for a moment. Love is for a lifetime. I want to talk to you parents about this. If we let our kids do whatever they want, is that in their best interest? They will smile and they will like you. Thank you for letting me do whatever I want. Thank you for allowing me to write on the walls of my bedroom. Thank you for allowing me to trash the living room. Thank you for allowing me to wipe syrup all over the kitchen table. Thank you that you wiped it up after me. Right? Thank you for letting me stay out all night as a teenager and not call or not write or not text and not have any interest in your concern. Thank you for letting me sleep in my bedroom with my 12 boyfriend, with my girlfriend. You see, when we let them wipe syrup over the kitchen table and we clean up the mess, then when they’re teenagers we’ll also be cleaning up their mess. God is a parent. We come to him in prayer, and we say, Father. Jesus taught us to pray Father, “Our Father who art in heaven.” He’s a father. And like a good parent he lets us have our fun, he lets us make our mess, and then he says, All right. Let me train you how to get out of this and clean this up. I’m not going to do it for you; you do it. You get the washcloth, you get the soap; you wash the kitchen table. Or you get the Magic Eraser; you take the markers off of your bedroom wall. You pick up your laundry. Right now our 11-year-old is doing his own laundry. My wife is a good mom. Nathaniel, would you say so? She’s watching you right now. No, she’s not really. But it’s not fun to do your laundry, is it? And when you forget to do your laundry and you don’t have any pants to wear . . . we’re learning, we’re growing, we’re becoming mature. Our parents did that for us, and we’re doing that for our kids. Now, we can’t expect more out of them than 13 they’re able. I mean obviously the newborn isn’t going to be washing the dishes anytime soon. So “Line upon line and precept upon precept,” and God treats you and I that way. He doesn’t say to the new Christian: All right. You’re going to go out and you’re going to preach the gospel to all the nations right now. He says that’s what’s coming, but for right now let’s work on basics. And I love what Sara, what Gene and Doris are working on. They’re working on new people being discipled in faith. They’re putting together a program and working on that with people that are just joining Christian faith and learning the basics. We don’t expect algebra out of young people. Well, now they do, right? My kindergartener is now doing algebra. God bless you, Common Core. All right. They are. I don’t get it. Restored after discipline. So Zechariah, having been disciplined by God, God didn’t let him get away with what he did. You doubted, here’s discipline; not because I don’t love you but because I do love you. If you want to read some more about God, the way he disciplines us, read Hebrews chapter 12. It’s like verses 1 through 10. Just write that down, read that at your leisure. God loves; therefore, he 14 disciplines. And the beauty of discipline is it’s for a season, and then God restores you after it. That’s exactly what we see from Zechariah. He did not trust the angel. Nine months of God evidencing himself, now the baby is born; and he writes on his chalkboard, “His name is John,” and what happens? Immediately God says, You did believe me. My prophecy, my promise, you did trust it. You heard the angel say “Call him John.” Now you’re put on the spot. You could call him Zechariah, Jr. Everyone wants you to call him Zechariah, Jr. But you’re going to go and you’re going to listen to that angel. Nine months later, now you’re going to apply what you heard. “His name is John,” and suddenly God opens his lips, suddenly now he can talk. He who uttered disbelief is now uttering belief, trust. Sometimes I want to encourage you that sometimes God brings things to us to wake us up, to wake us up. My dad and I used to pray at night as we were going to bed. That’s how the Lord brought me to saving faith. We would read scripture, we would pray. And I would remember frequently my father praying, “God, if you need to be doing something in me that I’m not responding to, I need you to take a 2-by-4 and whack me on the head.” I just remember my father praying 15 that. Now, I haven’t echoed him in those words, but that’s part of who I am. Like, God, wake me up; God, show me what you want me to do. Bring circumstances into my life to discipline me when I’m ignoring you. Bring alarm bells into my life when I need to be waking up and smelling the java. I want to follow you. Boy, if we could wake up every morning and just say, God, I want to follow you, he’ll do amazing things, friends. The connection point that I want you to consider taking home with you with regard to this idea, all right, here it is. It’s on the sermon notes, it’s on the connection card. “I will take all of my trials in life as opportunities.” See, often we take them as occasion for whining, but to take them “as opportunities to reaffirm my faith in God.” What trials are you going through right now? God says in his Word, anyone who desires to live a godly life will go through persecution, will go through trial. And it’s not every day and trials aren’t every moment, praise God for that. But are you going through a trial? Are you facing hardship right now? I would just invite you to turn that back over to God. God, show me what you want me to know about you, about 16 me, about us in relationship. Are you, God, using this to expose to me some way I need to grow? Help me to trust you more through this. And maybe you need to take home that idea, that principle and live that out. Let’s move on to his prayer. All right. So God loosens his lips. Everyone is fearful. All right. He couldn’t talk; now he can talk. What’s going on? Why is this all happening? And they’re all talking about these things throughout all the hill country of Judea. God is famous through this circumstance. Through Zechariah’s trial God is getting glory throughout the whole hill country of Judea. I would wonder if God would do some remarkable thing in your life, would everyone be talking about it? At the grocery store, at school, in the line at Walmart as you’re buying your Christmas presents and someone at the checkout counter says, Did you hear what happened to so-and-so at that church over there? It would just be an amazing thing. And verse 66, “All who heard them laid them up in their hearts.” What does it say in the next chapter? “Mary cherished all these things in her heart.” They all laid these things up in their heart saying, “What then will this child be? For the hand of the Lord was on him.” 17 See, God is getting glory through the circumstance. And now Zechariah, filled with the spirit, all right, he’s blessing God. It says God loosened his lips. He’s blessing God, and in this blessing he now, filled with the Spirit, verse 67, prophesies. He prophesied. Part of his prophecy is a blessing of God, a thankfulness of God, a praise of Almighty God; and then part of this prophecy is him being a witness to others and him driving home this idea of being a public witness. So I want to break Zechariah’s Benedictus into these two pieces of both praise and witness, because that’s what we’re doing. Point No. 2: praise. Point No. 3: witness. Let’s look at that in verses 67 to 75. So he begins, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel. He has visited and redeemed his people, he has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David.” He’s obviously not talking about himself in verse 69 because Zechariah and Elizabeth, what house are they from, if you remember? Chapter 1 verse 6 I believe it is. They’re of the house of Levi. Zechariah, Elizabeth, and now John are of the house of Levi. Now in verse 69 he’s saying you have raised up 18 a horn of salvation from the house of David, all right, of Judah. Judah, David, Jesus is of that line. So he’s prophesying, God, blessed be you. God, praise your name for giving us not this baby but the next baby, right? This baby the forerunner, this baby the messenger; that baby the Savior. And isn’t that what 69 says? You’ve raised up a horn of salvation. A horn is like something to grab ahold of. On all four corners of the altar of the temple there were horns. It was something to grab ahold of, something to rely on, something to trust in. Seventy. “As he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old that we should be saved from our enemies, the hand of all who hate us, to show mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham: to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.” What is Zechariah uttering? Because of your salvation, we have great reason to be thankful and to be filled with praise to you. God acts, we respond. God saves, we praise. Do you know John Piper is famous for saying this, a pastor out in Minneapolis. He said this: Missions 19 exists because worship does not.” God sent his Son to be the Savior of the entire world, and wherever Jesus is not honored, we go in missions so that worship might be in that place. Do you understand that? That God has reserved praise from the lips of every tribe, every tongue, every people, every nation; and Zechariah is saying, God, you’re starting here, but you’re going out to the whole world. You’re starting here with your people, but you’re going out to the whole world. He mentions the oath, the covenant in verse 73, “the oath which he swore to our father Abraham.” And remember we talked about that with Mary in her Magnificat last week. Verse 55 Mary says, “just as God spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” And last week Mary doing the whole covenant God made with Abraham and his offspring, and now Zechariah prophesies the same thing, in praise to God for his salvation. He promised that he would send a savior, now he has, and our response as restored people is to offer up praise. And so in our song time live a life of praise. In your prayer closet, in your devotional time at home live a life of praise. Among other people give God 20 glory for the things that he has done rather than hoarding glory. Yeah, I pulled that off. Yeah, look at me. Yeah, I’m slick. No. God did it all. God gave you the wisdom, the insight, the strength to go do those things. Give him praise. When God disciplines, when God brings trial, and now when God restores you after that trial, the first response needs to be God, thank you. Not genugt is genugt, all right, enough is enough. Not finally, right? No. Oh, God, thank you. Finally, you’ve heard my prayers for confession, and, God, for you to act, and I humbly thank you. A restored person, a restored person never says God, I deserve for you to act. A restored person says I am humble and broken, I am not worthy, but God, you are worthy. Would you show yourself off in this circumstance? That’s the life of a restored person, that’s the humility of a restored person. I would invite you just to write down Psalm 51 is another Psalm of a restored person. Here Zechariah has the song of him, a restored person. Back in Psalm 51 David, after his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah, right? David the adulterer, the murderer, God punished him, he disciplined him. Now he restored him, and David is praying a song of thanks. You 21 filled my lips with thanksgiving. And I would just invite you to live a life of thankfulness and praise. Maybe Psalm 51 can be of additional encouragement to you. But on our connection point, perhaps you’re saying to yourself, I do not live a life of praise. I am a restored person, but my thankfulness is not there. I’ve become too proud, I’ve become too rigid, I’ve become too inflexible, and I can’t express thanksgiving the way that I need to be. And maybe you’re seeing that about yourself. God, break down these walls. God, give me jubilance, give me joy. In Psalm 51 David prays, “God, restore to me the joy of your salvation.” He realizes, I need more of your joy, I need more of humility on my part and action on your part. And so maybe today you’re saying to yourself, I need to verbalize more, I need to talk more. Like Zechariah who could not verbalize and now he can. Maybe you can but aren’t, and maybe you need to verbalize more to God, verbalize your thankfulness. And so the connection point is “I will verbalize my thankfulness for a God who loved me and gave himself up for me.” God did that for you. Jesus went to your cross. Do you understand that? You deserved it, and he took it away. He took away your 22 punishment; he paid it himself. The most torturous, heinous, horrible, shameful death that anyone could die, and Jesus took your shame for you and he paid it himself. Would you verbalize your thanksgiving? Let’s all just practice. Just God, thank you. Let’s do that. God, thank you. I did it, now let’s all do it. Okay? God, thank you. You did it, you’re on the right track. Do that prayerfully yourself; do that by yourself, do that in your devotional time. Verbalize your thanksgiving, and then list out some reasons why you’re thankful to this God who gave himself up for you. Let’s move on to point No. 3, and here I confess that I am a mere mortal. What are the verses on point No. 3? I screwed up. I typed in the right connection point, but I did not type in — I took last week’s, so that’s actually last week’s point No. 3, and so mere mortal. What it should be is restored to witness, verses 76 to 80, restored to witness. So Zechariah finishes up his prophecy. It began with a thankfulness to God, and now it ends over here with, God, you have restored me so that I might be a witness. You’ve raised up John so that he might be a witness. 23 And I would say to you and to me that let’s prophesy once again and just say listen, God has restored us. He has lifted us out of our mire of sin, he has raised us from our death spiritually to life. We are born again. Jesus says, “Unless you’re born again, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” John 3 verse 6. And here Zechariah is expressing the same thing. Look, we’ve been restored so that we can witness. And so let’s look at it. “As for you, child (verse 76) you will be called the prophet of the Most High.” So he’s moving from thankfulness for God to now directing his prophecy towards his son. It was directed at God, now it’s directed at his son. Verse 76. “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High. You will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people.” Do you hear the witness in all of that? “Because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the Sunrise shall visit us from on high, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” John is being the recipient as this newborn eight-day-old baby, the recipient of a great prophecy. God is saying I direct the course of human events. I 24 can open the womb of a barren 80-year-old, 70-year-old, however old Elizabeth is. I can open up the womb of a virgin, Mary. I can do it all. With God all things are possible, friends. And God who is doing this mighty thing is raising up this young boy. He will be the messenger. There is no choice in the matter, there’s no free will in the matter. This child is filled with the Spirit from the womb, and he grows up to be the messenger. Yeah, he gets to eat locusts and wild honey. Not so fun. But Jesus said, there is no human born among women that is greater than this John, John the baptizer. All right. So he will be called the prophet of the Most High. He’ll go before the Lord to prepare his way. This is why we call John Jesus’ messenger or Jesus’ forerunner. He’s going on leading the way, he’s tooting the horn. Pay attention everyone. In this corner the lamb of the world, the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, right? John is declaring it’s not about me, it’s about who I am announcing. And friend, if we would take a note from the page of John, if we would learn to live that kind of life: it ain’t about me, it’s about who’s coming. And friend, we’re going to sing some songs about that Son 25 who yes, was born; yes, grew up; yes, taught; yes, did miracles; yes, died; yes, was laid in the grave; yes, rose again; yes, is now in heaven, but songs that are about the fact that he’s coming again. He came on Christmas 2,000 years ago, but he’s coming again. He is the Sunrise, verse 78. This is Jesus, the Sunrise, that shall visit us from on high. This sunrise is a prophetic utterance from the book of Malachi. Malachi chapter 4 verse 2 says “the Sunrise of righteousness.” And so Jesus is our Sunrise. Verse 79, “to give light to those who sit in darkness.” Well, isn’t that exactly what Jesus did, right? He went into a land of darkness to bring light to those walking in the darkness. So, John, you get to be that guy that goes on ahead. And you know what that makes us? We’re the cleanup crew. Congratulations, right? I remember watching as a kid Rocky and Bullwinkle, and one of the intros to one of the videos is this great parade going through town, and then at the very end of the parade — so you’ve got the elephants, you’ve got the marching band, you’ve got all the cars with the people, and then at the very end what do you have? You have the guy with the push broom and the trashcan and the hat and the little mustache, and he shakes it 26 and he’s cleaning up after everybody. That’s us. John marching on ahead, John going on ahead of Jesus saying pay attention, he’s coming. And then Jesus comes. And then we’re all the way at the back end of the parade, you know, we’re cleaning up after all the elephants and all the marching bands and all the music sheets that fell on the ground, and we’re cleaning up. We’re saying this parade is almost over. Would you get into the train, would you get on board, because this parade is almost over. We aren’t going on ahead before, verse 76, we’re going on at the end, and we’re riding in on his train and we’re following in on that marvelous, marvelous parade. I’d ask you to turn in your Bibles as we conclude to Colossians chapter 1. Jesus here is being honored, verse 12 and following. “We give thanks to the Father who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Listen, we get to announce that, just like Paul, just like John the Baptist, just like all the apostles, we in our lifetime get to be the witnesses. We at the back end of the parade with our little dust 27 broom, we get to say to the people on the sidelines, there’s coming a day when you’re going to want to wish that you were in this parade. Would you leave the sidewalk and join the parade? Would you leave the sidewalks and join our team? Would you come alongside and be one of us? Would you, verse 14, have forgiveness of your sins the way that we’ve enjoyed having the forgiveness of ours? We have a remarkable story to tell. We have been restored, from everything we used to do, from all the reckless life we used to live, God forgave us, he was merciful. He said all right, enough of that. Let’s do something creative here; let’s do something constructive here. Rather than you toiling to destroy your life, let’s bring some honor back to this broken life, let’s put the pieces of this brokenness back together. God restored you, he restored me; and God uses restored people to send out that message; to be like Colossians and say we have the forgiveness of our sins in this man, Jesus Christ. We’ll unpack his birth next Sunday, but as we close I just want to confirm with you that we all really need to work on this last connection point. “As I interact with friends and family” — and isn’t that exactly what Christmas is all about, getting 28 together with friends and family. “As I interact with friends and family I will remember that my life’s role as a restored person” — a broken person who’s now restored — “my life’s role is to be a witness of salvation through Christ.” Friend, your goal is to not throw the best party; your goal is not to give the greatest gift; your role in life is not to be a fantastic host. Your life’s role is to be a prophet of the Most High and to announce his coming and prepare his way. Prepare those friends and family who might not yet be ready, prepare them to find Jesus Christ and enjoy his salvation. Let’s pray. God, I thank you for your truth, for its powerful message, that we who were broken, we who disbelieved, you graciously restored us. And as we go our different ways and we’re all walking in different parts of our lives, we all go through various trials. God, we confess that we get back into sin and we get into states of disbelief like Zechariah who was a godly, spirit-filled man. And you discipline us because you love us. Afterwards you restore us because your love is for a lifetime. And, Lord, as restored people help us to thank you and help us to be a witness to other people in our 29 lives. We pray, Lord, as you in your word have been a witness to us this morning, perhaps there’s someone here that needs that sun to rise in their heart, that needs that light to shine on their life. And, God, they’re checking out what Christ is all about, and they’re realizing he’s here for the long haul; he’s here for a lifetime; he’s here to get ahold of your life to show you love and to make you a noble person. Friend, if you need that kind of forgiveness, and I know you do, would you just pray with me just in the quietness of your heart? God, I don’t know much, but I know you are and I know you love. I know you’re quick to forgive. I know you sent your Son to be the Savior, and I’ve never asked you until this very moment, would you be my Savior? Jesus, come into my life, cleanse me from all that I’ve done wrong. Help me to enjoy Christmas the way it was meant to be, putting Jesus first. Would you, Lord, help me to live my life the way I need to? Would you help me to obey you, would you give me strength? Friend, the moment you pray to receive Christ as your Savior you get some power 30 that you didn’t have before. He’s called the Holy Spirit, and he comes to anyone who places their trust in Jesus Christ. He’s there to help you; he’s there to remind you of the truths of God. He’s there to strengthen you when you feel tempted; he’s there to empower you to be a witness for God. Welcome to God’s family if you’ve prayed to respond to Jesus Christ. Now for all of us who believe and placed their trust in God, Jesus, would you help us to herald your name during our closing songs? We lift this up, Jesus, in your name. Amen. 31

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