Sunday, December 9, 2012

“Confessions of Christmas – Elizabeth ” – Luke 1:39-45

I. Confession of Blessing
A. Say it.
B. Hear it.
C. Realize it.
 
II. Confession of Promise
A. Know it.
B. Trust it.
C. Live it.
“Confessions of Christmas – Elizabeth ” – Luke 1:39-45
Last week we started by talking about stupid criminals. This week, let me start by giving another example. Waylon Prendergast, 37, of Tampa , Florida , committed a spur-of-the-moment robbery while on his way home from a late-night drinking session. A very inebriated Mr. Prendergast forced his way into the house through an open upstairs window, filling a suitcase with cash and valuables before setting the living room on fire to cover his tracks. He then escaped through the back door and made his way home, chuckling all the way. Only as he turned the corner into his own street, however, and discovered three fire engines outside his house, did he realize that in his drunkenness he had, in fact, burgled and ignited his own property. His comment: "I had no idea I had so many valuable possessions."
Now while there is some humor involved with this, it’s also sad. It’s sad because in his drunkenness, he lost all of his stuff but it’s also sad because it took losing all of his stuff to realize how valuable it all was and how he had been blessed. “I had no idea I had so many valuable possessions.” What he is really saying is, “I had no idea how blessed I am.”
Do you think God blesses crazy old drunks? I think it’s safe to say that God blesses all of us in spite of our sin and shortcomings. I can vouch for that. You probably can too. And what a perfect opportunity, right here at the busiest shopping time of the year to think about how blessed we are and how much more stuff do we really need to make us happy?
How many more cd’s and sweaters and electronic gadgets that start with a lower-case “i” do you really need before you are happy? There is nothing wrong with having stuff. That’s not the point of this message. I just hope to encourage you to think about and appreciate all the ways you have been blessed this Christmas and hopefully you will be a blessing to others out of your abundance as well.
We are going to look this morning at someone in Luke chapter 1 who was blessed. I love to go to family reunions. When I see my relatives, it makes me happy. Well, most of them make me happy. But while they seem to enjoy seeing me and always greet me warmly, I have never gotten a greeting quite like Mary gets from her relative Elizabeth in Luke 1:39-45. My relatives and I are happy to see each other but we will see the difference here between happy and blessed.
At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth .41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.42 In a loud voice she exclaimed:“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
If you were here last week, you remember we looked at the previous passage where the angel Gabriel comes to Mary and confesses to her that she is about to be the mother of the Messiah. In that same visit Gabriel confesses to her that her relative (we think she was a cousin) Elizabeth was also going to give birth and was in her 6th month. Here we see that Mary has gone to visit Elizabeth but we are not told exactly why. Any of us might guess why. It could have been that Mary didn’t want to be around when word got out that this young woman who was not yet married had become pregnant.
Maybe she just wanted to be around another woman who was pregnant. Maybe she just wanted to tell somebody she saw an angel. Maybe it doesn’t matter why and so the Bible doesn’t say. And that’s ok. There are still a couple of things I want us to see in this passage.
As we continue talking about the confessions of Christmas, I want you to see in this passage Elizabeth’s confession of blessing and her confession of promise.
Have you ever been so excited for somebody else that you couldn’t help but holler? A friend of mine at the biker church got a new trike the other day. I saw it outside and knew it was his and I practically ran inside and then ran up to him and hugged him and realized I was almost hollering as I told him how pretty it was and how glad I was for him. I think I almost scared him but I couldn’t help it. I saw that he had been blessed.
See, blessed or bless-ed means more than just “happy”. “Happy” indicates how a person feels. “Blessed” is what he is. A person is blessed when God’s favor rests on him, when the Lord delights in him. And when Mary came through her door, Elizabeth knew that she was blessed and she said so in a loud voice! In verse 42, she says, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the child you will bear.”
This is the same thing that Gabriel told Mary in verse 28. “You are highly favored and the Lord is with you!” I’m sure that made Mary happy to hear both of them say that but happiness is a feeling that can fade. Blessed is a fact. And I’m sure it was a fact that Mary needed to hear.
Now there are 3 things about Elizabeth ’s confession of blessing to Mary that I want to elaborate on real quickly. As a blessed people we need to say it, hear it and realize it.
When we see other people have been blessed we need to say it. I love the fact that Elizabeth was so excited for Mary. There was no jealousy. There was no envy. She was truly excited for Mary. Even though she knew through the Holy Spirit that Mary was going to be the mother of the Messiah, Elizabeth was nothing but happy for her and not envious at all. You know why? I Corinthians 13:4 says, “Love does not envy”. Love doesn’t envy.
Elizabeth loved Mary so much she was glad for her and wanted the best for her. Here at Christmas time it is easy for somebody else to unwrap a present or get a great gift and for us to be envious. “Her sweater has two snowmen on it and mine only has one.” When somebody else has been blessed it is important that we not compare and just be glad for that person and to tell them that they have been blessed.
It was also important to Mary that she hear that from Elizabeth and from Gabriel. I’m sure that some people back then were already talking behind Mary’s back about how she was about to be an unwed mother. Rumors were surely flying around about this great scandal and who in her neighborhood was really going to believe the truth at this point? What an encouragement it was to Mary to have a friend who believed and understood and was excited for her!
Sometimes God blesses us in a way that can be hard to understand. It’s easy to see that God has blessed us when we get a new Corvette ZR1 in Velocity Yellow. But other times when God is blessing us with patience or when He blesses us with an affliction that makes us more like Jesus it is hard to believe that it is a blessing at all. Sometimes being reminded that we have been blessed is a blessing itself.
And that helps us with the next thing and that is realizing that we have been blessed. We need to say it, hear it and realize that we have been blessed. As a good parent, do you give your children everything that they want? I hope not. For the same reason you don’t give your 4 year old a new BB gun for Christmas, sometimes God doesn’t give us everything we want. Oh, I’m sure your 4 year old is mature for his age and he has been begging and pleading and can’t understand why you don’t just buy it. Isaiah 55:8 says His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. And while God is able and ready to give you blessings pressed down and running over He doesn’t always give us what we think we want or need and we need to realize that is a blessing. When we truly realize that everything that comes into our lives is being allowed by God for our good and the good of His kingdom, then we realize how much God loves us and we realize that we are blessed.
Elizabeth makes another confession to Mary in verse 45. She confesses a promise. Verse 45 says, “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.” The promise is that what God said will be accomplished and what God said was that she would be the mother of the Messiah. But the blessing comes with belief.
I talk a lot about BOOCOD – the blessings of obedience and the consequences of disobedience but there is also BOBCOD – the blessings of belief and the consequences of disbelief. Elizabeth knew this well. Her husband Zechariah was given similar news to what Mary received and did not believe Gabriel when he told him. We see this in verse 20 of the same chapter where Gabriel tells Zechariah, “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.”
Elizabeth understood the importance of belief. And while some women would think it was a blessing that their husband couldn’t talk for a while, she knew that when God says something you better believe Him. Malcolm Mugridge - "Our 20th century is one of the most credulous in all of history. It is not that people believe in nothing, which would be bad enough, but that they believe in anything, which is really terrible.”
So, how do we know that the things that God says will, as Gabriel said, “..come true at their proper time”? Well, there are 3 things related to belief that we need to understand. First we need to know it, then we need to trust it and third, we need to live it.
If we are to begin with knowing what God says, then how do we do that? Well, we all know that we need to spend time in His word and in conversational prayer with Him but let’s use Elizabeth as our model. How did she know that God had told Mary she would be pregnant? Look at verse 41. “ Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” How does the Holy Spirit work like that?
Let me give you an illustration. A friend of mine, not me but a friend, cheated on a test one time in high school. And it wasn’t even my, I mean his fault. The guy behind him knew that my friend had not studied and was not smart enough to pass the test so he just whispered into my, his ear the right answer. That is sort of how the Holy Spirit works. You know, without the cheating.
The Greek word for HS is “paraclete” which means “one who stands beside”or “counselor”. Think of Him as an attorney highly invested in His client. So, if we are going to believe what God says then we have to know what God says and how we know it is through Bible study, prayer and, like Elizabeth , through the HS. And you receive the Holy Spirit only by having a relationship with God through His Son Jesus. It’s a package deal. So, if you are not hearing from the HS then you better check your relationship. This doesn’t mean God will reveal everything all at once, of course, but John 14:26 says, But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
So, once we know what God says, the next step is to trust it. This is where the real blessing starts to really kick in. John 20:29 says, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” So, how do we really trust what God says? One word: history. In your own life, has God ever let you down? Has He ever told you something that wasn’t true? Now, I could refer you to the Old Testament and to the prophesies that have all come true but I want you to see it for yourself.
And when I ask if God has ever let you down maybe you are not sure about the answer. Maybe there have been times in your history when you wondered if God had let you down. There was a time like that in my own life as a young adult. I was having a hard time believing that everything God said was true and right and so you know what I did? I looked to other people’s history. I made a concerted effort to look at the lives of the wisest people I knew – not necessarily the smartest but the wisest - to see what they thought. In their history, had God ever let them down? I think you know.
So, to wrap all of this up, if we are to be blessed then we need to believe. And if we are to believe then we need to know what God says through His Holy Spirit. We need to trust Him because history shows that He can be trusted. And since He can be trusted, we need to live like it.
This is my last point. And for al of these points I have tried to illustrate it or give a verse to agree with it but for this point I am going to let you practice what I have been preaching. I want us to bow our heads and close our eyes and just let the Holy Spirit whisper to you what this last point means to you personally. What does it mean for you to live out your beliefs? What has God told you lately that you are not fully embracing because you have not acted on it; you haven’t lived it out?
Maybe He has revealed some great secret to you about yourself and yet you have refused to change it. Maybe He has revealed to you that somebody else needs to hear a word of blessing from you and you have yet to do it. Or maybe God just wants to encourage you with a blessing this morning because He loves you so very much. Use this time to just allow yourself to humbly, yet boldly go into the throne room of the King and seek His face. What a blessing it is to be able to do just that!

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