| ||Messiah Lutheran Church||
6201 W Patterson Av
Chicago IL 60634
"Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear a son, and you are to give him the name John." (John 1: 13).Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of that? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years" (John 1:18)"And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time" (John 1 :210).
Zechariah, when given the news of the birth of a son to him and Elizabeth had his doubts.
And, so we can have our doubts when hearing the news that we can be born again in Christ.
For when we look to our sinful flesh for the source of our assurance, we have to admit that in and of ourselves we are spiritually impotent and infertile.
And even after the Holy Spirit has birthed saving faith in our hearts through the Gospel message, as long as we live, we still must battle with the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh that tempt us to doubt our salvation.
And cause us to wonder if on judgment day whether we will we really hear Jesus say to us the words, "Well done good and faithful servant" and inherit eternal life in heaven, or instead, hear him speak the words to us, "Depart from me I never knew you", and be cast in the lake of fire prepared for the devil and his angels."
I can recall visiting one of my members from Christ English at West Suburban Hospital in Oak Park in her dying moments, and the sheer terror she had as she gripped my hand as hard as she could muster and pleaded me not to leave her.
She was quite aware that her life was fading and after death she would be facing the final judgment, And, so she wanted me to stay with her and assure her she was going to heaven in spite of all the sins she had committed in her lifetime.
Experiencing such moments, of terror in our lives shouldn't necessarily be seen as all indication that we're unsaved and are out of God's favor. As long as we have breath, the devil will try if it were possible to deceive the elect of God (cf. Matthew 24:24) and cause us to doubt God's foolish and scandalous plan of salvation on our behalf.
This seemingly ridiculous plan of God caused Him to send his only begotten Son to suffer and eventually die a bloody death on a cross. But three days later he would rise from the grave.
Romans 6:4 tells us, "We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of Father, we too may live a new life."
Consequently, we can be born of water and the Spirit in Holy Baptism, as the Holy Spirit works saving faith in Jesus in our hearts.
And we are to affirm God's love and forgiveness for us in Christ by regularly hearing the: Gospel message proclaimed in Word and Song, as well as nourishing our faith by eating bread and drinking wine attached to the promises of God's Word in remembrance of Jesus.
Ephesians 2:8-9 reminds us, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast."
But just as Zechariah doubted the birth of his son, so we can have our doubts about being born again ill Christ as well, especially when we ponder our own inevitable death followed by the final judgment that will determine our eternal destiny.
And, so we pray the collect for a blessed death:
"Almighty God, grant Your unworthy servants Your grace, that in the hour of our death the adversary may not prevail against us but that we may be found worthy of everlasting life, through J(~SUS Christ, cur Lord. Amen"
We are not to look to ourselves or our good works for the assurance of our salvation" but to the sure and certain Word of God and Gospel promise of the Savior who came for sinners like us, and whose birth we celebrate this Christmas.
The baby born to Sarah and Zechariah in their old age was John the Baptist, who would grow up to be the last prophet to preach a message of repentance in order to prepare hearts for receiving the promised Messiah.
And, so we are to heed the message of repentance that John preached, in order that our hearts may be ready for the promised Messiah when He comes again to judge the living and the dead.
Zechariah was silenced by God for his doubt to make sure he wouldn't contradict the miraculous promise of the birth of his son by speaking words of doubt and unbelief.
Similarly, we are to overcome our doubts and unbelief by confessing God's Word and its truths by singing hymns and spiritual songs of faith, confessing our faith in the Creeds, chanting and speaking the words of our liturgy, going to God with our prayers and petitions,and hearing His word preached, thereby affirming our faith in God's promises and our salvation and giving us a sure anchor of hope in this ever changing world.
Zechariah had an encounter with the living God at the altar of incense in the Holy Place of the Temple, and so we can have an encounter with the living God not only in our worship services, but whenever and wherever He speaks to us through His living Word.
In a world filled with lies, it's easy to become cynical, skeptical, and filled with doubt. Yet, God Himself says to us, "I'm not a man that I should lie. Believe in me and you will be saved!"
F or a life that is based on the sure confession of God' s Word -That Christ is the Son of the living God will be like the man Jesus described in Matthew 7 who built his house upon the rock and did not fall.
Storms will come in this life. In fact, Jesus promises in John 16:33, "In this world you will have trouble", but then he goes on to say in the next sentence, "But take heart! I have overcome the world",
Through Him we have been made overcomers over sin, death, and the devil! As Romans 8:27 describes, "We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us."
And, so I invite you this Advent/Christmas Season to draw your comfort and consolation not from your changeable feelings or swinging moods, but in the Gospel message found in the changeless Word of God that points us to the "Word became flesh, and lived for awhile among us" (John 1: 14), who is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8), as your sure anchor amidst all the storms in your life, so that you might be found faithful in this faithless generation we find ourselves living in.
Consequently, rather than conforming to the patterns of this sinful world (cf. Romans 12:2) by keeping your faith to yourself, you will be transformed by the renewing of your mind to boldly confess your faith before others:
In the Christ-centered messages you write inside the Christmas cards you send; wishing others, "A Merry Christmas" rather than the non-specific "Happy Holidays!"; the decorations on your lawn that convey the true meaning of Christmas; inviting your neighbor to our worship services at Messiah for Christmas Eve and/or Christmas day; and countless other ways, subtle and not so subtle, of making your faith known to others.
For when you have the Word of God dwelling inside of you, it's like the prophet Jeremiah expressed when he wrote, "But if say I'll never mention the LORD or speak in his name, his word bums in my heart like a fire. It's like a fire in my bones! I am worn out trying to hold it in! I can't do it!" (Jeremiah 20:9).
You just can't help telling others the most important thing in your life: Jesus Christ and His crucifixion on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins!
Therefore, this Christmas and throughout the new year ahead, with the help of the Holy Spirit, let us resolve as a congregation and as individuals, not to be silent in unbelief and doubt.
But, instead to boldly proclaim with faith and confidence, the Good News of our Savior!
Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
"Go tell it on the Mountain over the hills and everywhere. Go tell it on the Mountain that Jesus Christ is born!"
For through Him, the impossible has become possible:
You have been born, again!
Copyright © 2018 Messiah Lutheran Church All Rights Reserved