Monday, December 3, 2012

"Confessions of Christmas - Gabriel" - Luke 1:26-38

Most folks enjoy reading or hearing about stupid criminals.  You know, the guy who robs a bank with a note written on the back of his own deposit slip; or the guy who robs a convenience store with a gun and sets the gun on the counter to grab the money and the clerk grabs the gun.  Those always appeal to us.  That's just funny.


But sometimes the bad guy pulls one over on the cops and it makes for a funny story as well.  Authorities in Florida said that 30 year old Patrick Townsend was busted last week with a large amount of meth and was taken to jail.  There he confessed to the crime.  He said he normally deals in a much larger amount than what he had on him that day so he just confessed.  The funny part is that after he confessed on tape to a detective, Townsend asked to go to the bathroom.  When he did he grabbed the tape recorder without the detective noticing and went to the bathroom and flushed the whole thing.


I understand he was still convicted and even sentenced for tampering with evidence but I bet the detective felt pretty dumb and doesn't let that happen again.  Sometimes we confess things that we wish we hadn't and sometimes we don't confess and wish we had.  But confession doesn't always mean you did something wrong.  The definition includes giving a word of affirmation, truth or significance.  You may confess that God is good or confess that Jesus is coming back soon.


I Tim. 6:13 says that Jesus made the good confession before Pilate.  And that confession that Jesus made was that His Kingdom was not of this world.  He was confessing to be God.  For December, we are going to be looking at some confessions of Christmas; confessions that Jesus is coming, that He is going to be a blessing, how to find Him and what it means for us today.


Today we are going to look at the confession of the angel Gabriel in Luke chapter 1.  Gabriel is mentioned in the Bible a few times.  He is mentioned in the Old Testament in Daniel as the man Gabriel who came to tell Daniel he was highly favored.  Then in the New Testament he is mentioned in the passage just before the one we are going to read today when he chastises Zechariah for not having enough faith in what he was telling him about the coming Christ.


In chapter 1 verses 26-38, Gabriel comes to Mary with some incredible news.  It is basically the same news he gives Zechariah but he tells Mary that not only is the Messiah coming, but she is going to be the mother.  Let's read in Luke 1:26-38.

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Note in verse 26 that Gabriel is "sent".  That word "sent" is the same root word we use for the word "apostle" or "one sent with a message".  And the message he is sent with is very similar in its beginning as the one he gave Daniel many years before.  "You are highly favored!"  Now, I don't care how favored I am, if Gabriel appears to me, I'm afraid the "fight or flight" reaction is going to kick in but Mary; young, sweet, innocent little Mary, who was probably not much more than a child is only "greatly troubled".  I'm sure that was very true.  I would be greatly troubled if an angel appeared to me and said anything.

But Gabriel continued on with his message and actually confessed to Mary 6 different things about the baby.


1.  The first thing he confessed was in verse 31 that she would name Him Jesus.  This is the same thing that Joseph was told in the dream recorded in Matthew: “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).


2. “He will be great” (v. 32.) This concerns His significance. No doubt, He is the most significant personality in human and divine history.  After all, He is God, come in the flesh!   And the work He was to perform, the Atonement, would be the most meaningful in the history of humanity.


3. “He . . . will be called the Son of the Highest” (v. 32). Recall that Psalm 2:7–8 tells us, “The Lord has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance and the end of the earth for your possession.” What David wrote about in the Psalms, Gabriel announced to Mary!


4. “The Lord God will give Him the the throne of His father David” (v. 32). This looks back to the prophetic word from Isaiah, “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever” (9:7).


5. “He will reign over the house of Jacob” (v. 33). In short, Jesus is Israel’s promised Messiah! They need not look for, nor expect, another!


6. “Of His kingdom there will be no end” (v. 33). Many kingdoms over the course of human history will come and go, but Christ’s kingdom will have no end. Going back to the book of Daniel in chapter 7:13, 14 it says, “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

So, those are the 6 confessions of Gabriel to Mary in the book of Luke.  I hope that is helpful in understanding Who Jesus is.  We will now be dismissed and go have some punch and cookies in the fellowship hall to start our celebration of Christmas.

But now wait just a second.  Before we start celebrating Christmas, maybe we should figure out what this passage means for us today.  If we are truly going to celebrate the real "reason for the season" maybe we should think about how the advent of Jesus should affect our lives some 2000-plus years later.  I don't exactly have to give a "spoiler alert" when I tell you that everything Gabriel said absolutely came true.  We all know that so how should this affect us today?

For me, it brings great joy!  It should bring all of us great joy to know that what was prophesied so many years before in the Old Testament came true with the birth of Jesus in the New Testament.  If all of those prophesies came true then that means all of the other prophesies that are still to come will come true as well.  And in the end (here's another spoiler alert) we win!  I'm tired of this nasty old place called earth and if I thought this was all there was to life then I would be pretty depressed but I know different and it brings me great joy.

It also brings me great peace to know that baby grew up to be a sinless man and die on a cruel cross to pay for my sins.  He was then taken off that cross, a dead man buried in a tomb for 3 days but then, because He is God, He rose again and I can have a relationship with Him even today.  And in that relationship, He proves Himself to be trustworthy even when I am not.  He proves Himself loving even when I am not.  And He proves Himself worthy even when I do not.  What a mess my life would be without Him but with Him I have peace.

And lastly, I have forgiveness.  Thank you Lord for your forgiveness!  I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” I need to be purified and I have an idea you do too.  And because I have been purified by the work of Jesus on the cross and not because of anything I have done, Jesus promises me a place in Heaven with Him.

Joy, peace, forgiveness and a place in heaven; man that's exciting!  That's almost a little too exciting.  I feel my blood sugar going down.  Hang on just a second.  This is the best chocolate.  It's so creamy and good.  The texture is just perfect.  Just melts in my mouth.  I think I better have a little more, you know, for my blood sugar.  Oh, wow!  That's good!  I bet you wish you had some right about now.  Should I share?

How bad do you have to hate somebody not to share the most incredible thing you have ever experienced?!  If that chocolate is the most incredible thing you have ever had in your life, don't you want somebody else to have it too?  If that chocolate changed your life and brought you joy, peace and forgiveness then wouldn't you go tell your neighbor about that goodness?  Wouldn't you tell your family and co-workers about the wonderful, dark, sugary goodness inside that foil wrapper?

But the thing is that while that chocolate is incredible tasting, it will, like everything else in this world, not last.  And people in our community are hungry and thirsty for the joy and peace that lasts for eternity.  And we have it!  It is time for all of us to start confessing it.

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