Saturday, December 9, 2023

Courage for Christmas



We began our Christmas season series last week with Luke’s account of the angel Gabriel as he appeared to an elderly priest named Zacharias. At that time Zacharias was in the Holy Place burning incense to the Lord while he prayed for Israel. 



After reviewing the layout of the Temple last Sunday, we saw that the furniture was placed to form a cross. And the altar of incense, where the prayers were lifted to God, sat perfectly in the heart of the cross/Jesus.This is where the angel spoke with Zacharias … from the heart of God.



Zacharias returned home and his wife, Elizabeth, conceived a child in her old age. Six months later, the same angel who had appeared to Zacharias was sent by God to the town of Nazareth to a woman named Mary who was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph. The angel Gabriel told Mary she would conceive and bring forth a Child who would be the Son of God, the promised Messiah and Savior of the world.


Mary believed what the angel said to her, but she did not know how this could happen, seeing she was a virgin. Gabriel told her about the miracle working power of the Holy Spirit. Gabriel further told Mary that her elderly relative, Elizabeth, who had been barren, was now six months pregnant. The angel declared: “For with God, nothing will be impossible.” This is where Mary uttered those powerful, faith-filled words: 


Luke 1:38  Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.


Now let’s begin our message today beginning with the very next verse:


Luke 1 NKJV

39 ¶  Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah,

40  and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.


Mary left without delay … and she went a long way. She walked or, perhaps she rode a donkey or a camel. At any rate, it was somewhere between 80 and 100 miles, (130 to 160 kilometers), one wayin the winter, and 3 months later she returned home to Nazareth.



I think the reason why Mary made such haste in taking her journey to see Elizabeth was two-fold. First, I believe she wanted to confirm and celebrate the good fortune afforded Elizabeth by the Lord God Almighty. But also, there lies within each one of us a desire to discuss our situation with others who have experienced similar situations in hopes we can better understand what is happening to us. Mary needed help. And maybe, just maybe Elizabeth and Zacharias would understand.


You see, Elizabeth had experienced nothing less than a miraculous conception, also foretold by the angel Gabriel. Mary hoped Elizabeth and Zacharias could provide some shared perspective. There was no better confirmation or comfort than to seek her counsel from those who had gone through what she had also experienced.


The Apostle Peter wrote 2 Peter “To them who have obtained like precious faith with us …” (2 Peter 1:1)There is something powerful about “like precious faith” … people who have gone through what we have or believe what we do. Everyone has had or will have that experience and let’s face it, like Mary:


Point #1: We all need counseling.


Hopefully we have the good sense to seek counselors who know the Lord and who are committed to His plan for our lives. 

Counselors who will not condemn or criticize, but will be honest and speak the truth in love to us. Counselors who will be as open to hear us as we are to hear them.

 I believe God has already provided the answers and the direction we need. 

Most often my job as a counselor is to lead people to uncover or discover the answers already resident deep inside them. 

Proverbs 20:5  Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, But a man of understanding will draw it out.

If we talk about your situation long enough, and providing you know the Lord, you already know what I am going to say: “Hey, I think you’re right. Why don’t you go ahead and do what you would tell someone else to do in your situation?”

Now, if we are talking and I find out you don’t know the Lord … there is only one answer from there and you can easily guess what that one is. You’re right! 


The next thing we learn from Mary in this passage is that she not only needed faith, she also needed courage. There was no doubt some very difficult days ahead forMary


Except for God … she was pretty much on her own.No one else heard the angel … no one else was there. She needed some help.


We all wake up at some point and feel all alone. Knowing you made the right choice can still be a lonely place. Elizabeth knew what that was like. Elizabeth had even hidden herself for the first 5 months of her pregnancy because she was embarrassed and didn’t know what to say or how to explain her situation to her friends and people she met. (Luke 1:24)


Every day we have to face people … every day we have to answer and like Mary … sometimes no one else heard the angel … our story seems impossible to believe. Sometimes it’s even hard for us to keep believing it.


The messenger left, but the message remained. The teacher left, but the teaching remained. The angel is gone, and Mary is pregnant. 


When Mary greeted Elizabeth, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and said:


Luke 1:45  “Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”


Thanks be to God that Mary’s faith outlasted her experience.


Something happened when Mary believed the Word of the Lord which was spoken by God’s messenger. Faith provides a platform for us to continue believing and trusting God, and having courage to face the unknown. 


Point #1: We all need counseling from people who know the Lord.

Point #2: We all need courage to face the unknown.


God is responsible and He is trustworthy. Again, just like Mary, God will surround you with support. And even when others who love you do not understand, God will make a way. Your faith will outlast your experience. This is the message of Christmas.


Have faith in God and He will give you the support and the courage you need to face the unknown.