Thursday, December 20, 2007

Advent 2007 (III): Mary and Her News
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Mary And Her Newsº


  1. Good News: You baptized seven people today in the river. Bad News: You lost two of them in the swift current.

  2. Good News: The Women’s Guild voted to send you a get-well card. Bad News: The vote passed by 31-30.

  3. Good News: The Elder Board accepted your job description the way you wrote it. Bad News: They were so inspired by it, they also formed a search committee to find somebody capable of filling the position.

  4. Good News: You finally found a choir director who approaches things exactly the same way you do. Bad News: The choir mutinied.

  5. Good News: Mrs. Jones is wild about your sermons. Bad News: Mrs. Jones is also wild about the “Gong Show,” “Beavis and Butthead” and “Texas Chain Saw Massacre.”

  6. Good News: The trustees finally voted to add more church parking. Bad News: They are going to blacktop the front lawn of your parsonage.

  7. Good News: Church attendance rose dramatically the last three weeks. Bad News: You were on vacation.

  8. Good News: Your biggest critic just left your church. Bad News: He has been appointed the Head Bishop of your denomination.

  9. Good News: The youth in your church come to your house for a surprise visit. Bad News: It’s in the middle of the night and they are armed with toilet paper and shaving cream to “decorate” your house.

Read: Luke 2:1-7


Trans:You have heard the expression, “As weak as a baby”2

  1. And it was as true for Jesus as it was for any other baby.

  2. But there is an irony here – for when we see Jesus in that manger we do see him at his weakest, but we also see the most powerful person in the universe. The King of Kings, the Lord of Lords.

  3. We must never forget, that in that manger lies not just a baby, but God himself.

T.S. And even though God is in that manger, I expect that not everyone thought that that birth was “good news”.

  1. Christmas is not Good News at all

    1. I think if I were Mary's grandmother, I would really wonder about how good this birth of Jesus really was. I mean I would really be embarrassed to explain to my neighbor all that went on with my grandson's birth.

    2. Mary is engaged – but she has not yet moved in with her husband and she is pregnant. Very pregnant.

    3. She wasn't even home for the first three months – went to visit Elizabeth you know. But once Elizabeth had her baby, a boy named John, she comes home. She didn't even stay to help.

    4. And, you know what was really strange. Mary is nearly ready to have her baby and Joseph takes here across country to that little village – Bethlehem. And he didn't even arrange for a place to stay – how irresponsible is that. Irresponsibility comes in two types. Some people, like Joseph, are just plain irresponsible.

(Ill.) And then there are times that even normal people do irresponsible things. For example, The Rev. Robert Middlemiss of England found he was traveling on the wrong train—a non-stop express. More than that: he had to attend a meeting at which he was to bring the message. Rev. Middlemiss prayed for help, and within minutes the train stopped. The preacher, overjoyed at his good fortune, jumped from the Newcastle-to-London express and summoned a taxi so that he could keep his appointment at a nearby town. But the British rail system was not happy about the incident. It criticized the Baptist minister for his “foolish and irresponsible action.” It also denied that the train stopped because of divine intervention, saying, “There was trouble on the line.” 3

    1. And because of Joseph's irresponsibility, Mary has her baby in manger – a manger.

(Ill.) It would be like your daughter or granddaughter going to the hospital and finding it was full. The nurse has a crazy idea – he and his wife are going on a camping trip tomorrow and the SUV is packed, ready to go. She has an orderly go to his car and set up the tent – and there, next to the wonderfully equipped hospital, your daughter has her baby.

    1. It really is a grandmother's nightmare – did you hear that Mary also tells stories about seeing angels. Not only Mary, but there is that boy Joseph – he talks about them too. And its not just them – there were those dirty shepherds. They talked about seeing an angel too – no not just an angel, a host of angels. And then they have the nerve to go and visit Mary. They didn't even know her,

    2. How can anybody consider this “good news”?

  1. Christmas is really Good News!

    1. But it is good news.

(Appl.) Too often we judge life by its circumstances. Our imaginary grandmother was doing exactly that – looking at the Jesus birth through the circumstances rather than through God's eyes. And we fall into the same trap about our circumstances

    1. Paul, in his letters to the Galatians, saw beyond the circumstances.

(Ill.) Galatians is an interesting book. Most believe that Galatians was one of earliest (maybe the earliest) letter written Paul. It respresents some his earliest thoughts about his faith as a young believer. And he shares some his thoughts on Christ's arrival on our planet.

    1. Let's take a minute to look at Galatians 4:3-7

    2. Paul is very much aware of what I have said all too often – we are broken people. We were slaves – and if you read the rest of the NT, you know he means slaves to sin. We did those things that we did not want to do. And did not do those things that we were expected to do.

    3. Because sin is so personal, we sometimes will feel like we are the only ones that have the problems that we have – when in reality sin is common to all mankind. Paul says it here, were slaves under the basic principles of the world.

    4. God could have left us there – but he didn't. To quote Paul, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.

    5. Paul uses an illustration here – he says we can call out to Him, “Abba, Father”.

(Ill.) Abba is an interesting word. It is not the formal word “Father...”, rather it is a word that would be used in the nursury. We might use the word “daddy” in the same way. It is the kind of word you might here a child say as his father comes to the door – and the child comes running to meet him, “Abba”.4

    1. Christmas is not bad news. In Christmas God, brought His son into the world. And His son would allow us to become members of the family of God. And that is “GOOD NEWS”.

Conclusion: I want you to remember three things this Christmas:

  1. When we look at the circumstances of that first Christmas, it might very well be considered “bad news”.

  2. But when we look at Christmas from God's view, it is good news.

  3. Finally, there is one more lesson here. Whatever circumstances you may find yourself in, take time to look at your life from God's perspective.


ºMuch of this sermon is based on material in Beth Moore's book Jesus:90 Days With The One And Only. B&H Publishing (2007).

1Streiker, L. D. (2000). Nelson's big book of laughter: Thousands of smiles from A to Z (electronic ed.) (282). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

2Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary. (Lk 2:1). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

3Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

4Balz, H. R., & Schneider, G. (1990-c1993). Exegetical dictionary of the New Testament. Translation of: Exegetisches Worterbuch zum Neuen Testament. (1:1). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Advent 2007 (II): Mary and Her Relative
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Mary and Her Relative1

Intro.: I have a funny habit – a habit that irritates my kids, but one that my wife loves.

  1. I sing songs to her.

  2. I make up little ditties that express my love and commitment to her as we drive along in the car.

  3. She likes it – especially when I come up with some words that makes sense.

  4. My kids don't like it – they feel the need to tell me I can't sing.

  5. And that is what Mary is doing for God in today's passage.

Read: Luke 1:39-56


Trans:I want to begin by making a few observations

  1. Mary had remarkable knowledge of scripture.

  2. In the ten verses of the Magnificat, she quotes no less than 15 OT passages.

  3. Mary's trip from Nazareth to Judea would have taken 3 to 5 days, depending on where Elizabeth lived in Judea. We are never told – only that it was a “town in the hill country of Judea”

  4. According to Gabriel in verse 37, Elizabeth was already six months pregnant. Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months – meaning she probably stayed long enough to help Elizabeth for a short time after her baby was born.

  5. Though we will only look at one of them, there were actually three responses to Mary's arrival in Elizabeth's home

    a. Elizabeth's baby, John the Baptist, leaped in her

    b. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit

    c. Mary shared the scripture we will be studying today.

  6. Mary's song had long been known as the Magnificat – which comes from the Latin for “Magnify” - the first word in the Latin Bible.

T.S. I want to look at the three stanzas of the Magnificas it leads us to praise God for all he has done.

  1. The Magnificat reminds us that God cared for Mary

    1. I will sometimes fall into the trap of feeling sorry for myself – afterall, some pastors have bigger churches, some believers have better cars, some people seem to have it together better than I do. In fact, if I were Mary, I think I might be tempted to fall into that trap.

    2. If I were a 13 year old girl, I would not be very happy to find out that I was pregnant. Yet, at what could have been the most horrible time of her life, she does not. Instead, she begins to focus on what God has done for her:

My soul glorifies the Lord

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

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.

    1. Even as Mary found herself in what could have been one horrendous predicament, she continues to look to God.

(Ill.) Howard Rutledge found himself in a predicament too. As a pilot during the Vietnam war, he was shot down. He was able to parachute to the ground safely, but immediately captured and imprisoned. In his book, In The Presence of Mine Enemies, he describes how he and his fellow prisoners of war survived. Part of what they did was to go back to the lessons they had learned in Sunday School – the stories, the scriptures, the songs. For example, they remembered the song

Showers of blessings,

Showers of blessings we need!

Mercy drops round us are falling,

But for the showers we plead

      He also tells that every soldier seemed to remember Psalm 23 and the Lord's Prayer. But he goes on to recount that the most often quoted passage was neither of these, but John 3:16 - “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”1

(Appl.) You see, whether it was Mary or a Prisoner of war or you and me, when life gets tough, we can turn to God's word as a source of strength.

  1. The Magnificat reminds us that God cares for us

    1. Mary begins by reminding us that God cared for her, but she continues by reminding us that God's care goes beyond just her:

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.

    1. Five times in these ten verses Mary uses the words “He has ...” to mean that “God has ...”

    2. She acknowledges that God is at work what ever may come.

(Ill.) In 1620, the Pilgrims came to America to find religious freedom.2 One of messages that they brought with them to New England was that “God was at work behind every catastrophe, and that He still spoke not only by the still, small voice but also by the thunder, the snow, the hail, the absence of rain, and if necessary even by death.”3

(Appl.) Mary, even her most confused moments, did not forget what God had done. Neither can we.

  1. The Magnificat reminds us that God cares for His people

    1. Mary begins by looking at how God has been with her. She continue by exploring how God has worked in the world around her. She finishes by looking at God's work among His people:

He has helped his servant Israel,

remembering to be merciful

to Abraham and his descendants forever,

even as he said to our fathers.

    1. We are not merely gathered here because of what we have done. We are here, because there have been lots of people that have come before us. They provided a building, they nurtured us. Some of you are here because of this church has done, some of you are here because of the blessing you have received from other churches. But none of us are just because of this group.

(Ill.) I am reminded of a song I heard several years ago by an artist by the name of Ray Boltz, “I Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb.” The words can be found at

    1. Saints gave their lives so that we could hear the gospel message today. May we never forget that our faith came because of the work of others – and may we do the work that will leave a legacy for those to come after us.

Conclusion: Let me conclude by suggesting this. I said earlier that Mary composed her Magnificat by choosing 15 verses to be her testimony. They were her testimony, but they were God's words.

  1. As you come through this holiday season, take time to think about your testimony.

  2. What verses would you choose to build your Magnificat?

  3. Then share you song with someone – your spouse, your co-worker, a friend.


1Much of this sermon is based on marterial discovered during my family's study of Beth Moore's book Jesus: 90 Days with One And Only

1Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson's complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (58). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.


3AMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Advent 2007 (I): Mary and the Angel
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Mary and the Angel1

Intro.: I would have liked to bring a really famous person into church today.

  1. Somebody like the President of the US, or the Pope, or the Queen of England

  2. I think two things would have been amazing.

    * You would be amazed that that person was here at all

    * You would want to here every word that this person spoke.

  3. Today, as we begin our Advent season, we will look at the Mother of Jesus and her response to the news that she would give birth to the Messiah.

Read: Luke 1:26-38


Trans: Over the last few weeks my wife and I have been starting a study of Jesus' life as described in the book of Luke.

  1. The book that Sandra and I have been using is a Bible Study written by fairly well-known author by the name of Beth Moore.

  2. At the same time, I had been praying that God would give some guidance as to what I should preach on during the upcoming Advent season.

  3. And so, over the next few week, I will be sharing some of what I have been learning in my own study, from Beth Moore, and from the Bible Study that my wife and I have shared in the weeks leading up to Advent.

T.S. During the next few minutes I would like to address the question of how does one young girl respond to an angel and to his message?

  1. Responding to Gabriel Luke 1:26-33

    1. Gabriel had first visited earth about six months earlier. He had stopped to see Zechariah. Zechariah would become the father of John, John the Baptist. Zechariah was an elderly priest married to an equally married wife, Elizabeth. Gabriel had the privilege of telling Zechariah and Elizabeth of the birth of their son.

    2. Now, I want you to imagine for just a few minutes that you are a young person of of 13 years of age. I don't know where you are, maybe in your bedroom, maybe out walking. But you are alone.

    3. It has been six months since Gabriel made his last visit. And now he is standing in front of you. It must have been startling, at the very least. It couldn't have been you – after all, you are young, poor, and female. Nothing important ever happens to the young. Nothing important ever happens to the poor. And nothing important ever happens to women in Jewish society.2 And now, Gabriel is here. Now Gabriel is here to see you.

(Appl.) God does not always use what those that He might expect. He will take those who are willing to serve Him. He will take those who are where He needs them to be. In fact scripture tells us even the stones will cry out, if no one else will. But he doesn't choose the elite, he doesn't choose the rich, he doesn't choose a leader. Rather He chose a young, poor, female named Mary to bring the promise made since the beginning of time to fruition.

    1. Though it does not say it explicitly, I expect that Mary was stunned when she heard the angel's words, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.

    2. Whoa!” Scripture was says that Mary was “confused and disturbed” when she heard these words. The Greek word literally means totally agitated.

(Ill.) My first college degree was in Chemistry – but don't ask me anything about chemistry, I have forgotten more than I ever knew. But I remember using a small teflon covered magnetic bar. That bar could be placed into a beaker. The beaker usually contained a liquid and a solid that had to be thoroughly mixed. I would drop the magnet into the solution and set the beaker on a hot plate. Inside the hot plate was a motor that was attached to another magnet which would spin – and the magnetic bar would spin. The effect was to thoroughly agitate the ingredients in the beaker. Mary was thoroughly agitated when she met the angel.

(Appl.) Not an unusual feeling for most of us – there are times when we all might feel that kind of agitation – times when life makes no sense and we stand there wondering what is going on.

    1. The angel has the answer that both Mary and we need. “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” That probably gave her a few moments to relax – at least until the Angel finished his sentence:

      Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call His name JESUS. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.

    2. Now, I don't know about you, but if I were a 13 year old girl hearing this words, I would be anything but calm. Not only will she be having a baby, but she also knows what to call Him and what He will accomplish.

    3. If it had been me, I would have fainted right there. Right then.

  1. Responding to Gabriel's message Luke 1:34-38

    1. How does a young girl respond to this remarkable message?

    2. Mary was said to be “engaged to Joseph”. But the relationship was legally closer to what we call marriage than it was to engagement.

(Ill.)The engagement was a fairly sophisticated ceremony – The engagement ceremony was arranged by the grooms parents. This would consist of a meeting of the two families and other witnesses. The groom would commit himself to the marriage and present the bride with one or more piece of jewelry. He would thin sip a from a cup of wine. If the bride sipped from the same cup of wine, she was making the same commitment. And at that point the marriage was legally binding. Though they had not been physically intimate, the relationship was legally binding.

    1. Given Mary's surprise, her response is not unexpected: “How can this be?” Now I don't mean to be coarse, but I know how a married young woman has a baby. I expect that Mary knew that much. But she was totally unprepared for the explanation that Gabriel gave her: The angel replied to her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God. And consider your relative Elizabeth - even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.

    2. How does a young girl respond to this remarkable message?

    3. If I had been that girl that day, I don't know if I would have had the faith to respond as she did. “'I am the Lord’s slave,' said Mary. 'May it be done to me according to your word.' Then the angel left her.

(Appl.) I may not have had the faith that day, but by following her example, I would hope that I might say yes to whatever God would have me do today. I would pray that you might respond similarly to whatever God expects of you.

Conclusion: One more question.

  1. I wonder if Mary saw it all as good news, or whether, as the angel left, she sat there wondering what it all meant.

  2. I wonder if her family and friends would see it as good news? What would her mom say?

  3. I pray that we see it as good news this year.


1Much of this sermon is based on material in Beth Moore's book Jesus:90 Days With The One And Only. B&H Publishing (2007).

2Life Application Bible. Notes. Luke 1:27,28.