For years, I thought it was pointless to preach a sermon on Christmas Eve. I mean, how many Christmas Eve sermons have you actually remembered after Christmas Eve? Hmm? Yeah, me too. Not one. So I operated from the viewpoint that the gospel could speak for itself this one night of the year. The story of the incarnation is enough.
But then, I realized this is only true for people who already believe. For everyone else, it’s just a nice story. It makes us feel all fuzzy and warm, and for an hour or so, we can bask in the gentle glow of candlelight. We can pretend that the cute baby in the manger sleeps in heavenly peace, and won’t bother us too much with the reality of our human existence.
And that’s where we’d be wrong. Continue reading
I mentioned last week that this season of Advent brings in the Year of Luke – in the coming year, we will take most of our gospel readings from Luke’s account. Luke uses the first two chapters to introduce this story of Jesus’ life and work. In chapter one, we meet a young girl named Mary, and her relatives Zechariah and Elizabeth, who are expecting a child in their old age. We also meet the angel Gabriel, who will tell Mary she is to become the mother of God’s Son, while Elizabeth’s son will be a prophetic voice that goes before Messiah into the world.
But as I also mentioned last week, a theme running throughout this gospel is the theme of reversal, and we will experience it during Advent by beginning at the end, as we did last week, and moving toward the beginning, as we will do next week. Today, we are in chapter three, and Luke introduces us to the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth, known to us most often as “John the Baptist.” Continue reading
December 19, 2021
Here’s the back story: Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age, after the angel Gabriel tells her husband, Zechariah, that this will happen. Zechariah questions the angel’s grasp of reality – they are both long past child-bearing age, just like Abraham and Sarah, or Hannah and Elkanah in the Old Testament. Because he doubts the angel’s word, Zechariah is unable to speak for the next nine months.
Both Zechariah and Elizabeth come from priestly families. In fact, Elizabeth is a direct descendant of Aaron. But Gabriel tells Zechariah that the child they will have is to be a prophet, not a priest. Continue reading