Sermon Notes: Traditions 12.1.2019

12-1-19               Sermon Notes                               “The Meaning of Memory”     First Sun. of Advent
What are some of your favorite Christmas memories?  I’ve got lots of them, but one of my favorite is when we would go over to my grandmother’s house on Christmas afternoon.  My sister and I would still be running on adrenaline from the early morning activities…but Christmas afternoon at my grandmother’s was different.  We’d slow down.  We would take our time.  One of the children (my sister or me) would be handed my grandmother’s Bible, and we would have the honor of reading the Christmas Story while every sat and listened.
Where in this big, black Bible would we turn to read the Christmas Story?  Not in Gospel Matthew…too much of that genealogy stuff.  “So-and-so begat so-and-so…”  Nope!  And not in Mark…  The Gospel of Mark skips over the birth story and jumps right in to John the Baptist crying out in the wilderness.  And not the Gospel of John, either.  John starts out sort of “mystical” sounding with “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  I love that now, but as a kid, I wanted Wise Men and Shepherds.
So…Luke was the place.  Yep!  We’d turn right to Luke Chapter 2.  “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed…”  That brings back such strong memories!  I actually just now read those words again from my grandmother’s Bible.  (It’s the one my grandfather gave her for Christmas in 1974.  He gave her a new Bible, because she had completely worn out her other one…I still have that one, too…it’s held together with black electrical tape). 
Memories…  Now that I think about it, though, I wonder…  Why did we always start in Chapter 2 of the Gospel of Luke?  Who starts a story in Chapter 2?  Why not Chapter 1…where Luke started?  Hmmm… Are we missing out on a memory that could be important?  Let’s hear the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth…
5 In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. 7 But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.
8 Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. 10 Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11 Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14 You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. 16 He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” 19 The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.”
21 Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. 22 When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. 23 When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
24 After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, 25 “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.”
 
57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.
59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. 60 But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” 61 They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” 62 Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. 63 He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God.   (Luke 1: 5-25, 57-54  NRSV)
Don’t we lose something valuable if we leave the memory of Zechariah and Elizabeth out of the Christmas story?  What can this couple teach us about HOPE on this first Sunday of Advent?

I look forward to making some memories with you in Advent 2019! See you Sunday,

Pastor Sam

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