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Red, The Color of Christmas explains how Christmas and Easter go hand in hand and how Jesus showed us that the real Christmas tree is the cross. Jesus did not simply come to solve the troubles and worries of this world but came to offer salvation to a world at war with God.
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Let’s take our Bible and turn to Luke chapter one and two. I want to begin a two part sermon that will encompass this morning and next Sunday morning. I want to preach in the subject, have no fear.
I like the story of the passenger in a taxi cab who leaned forward to ask the driver a question and while doing so, tapped him on the back of his shoulder. The driver screamed, lost control of the car, nearly hit a bus and drove up over the curb before coming to a screeching halt. For a moment, everything inside the taxi cab was deathly silent and then the driver finally said, “You know what? I’m really sorry, but you scared that living daylights out of me.” The passenger apologized and said that he didn’t realize that tapping the driver on the shoulder would’ve frightened him like that. The driver replied, “Look, it’s really not your fault. Today is my first day driving a cab. For the last 20 years, I’ve been driving a hearse.” That would give you a Friday man.
Many people are jumpy and frightened about many things today. As we look out on the world, far or near, we certainly could find ourselves with a bad case of the jitters. On the international front, we see the Euro zone struggling to keep its financial house in order, which has huge ramifications for the American economy and the world economy. In the Middle East, we see one Arab country after another Arab country become more Islamic and radical, not to mention the specter of a nuclear Iran, which all adds up to the noose being tightened tighter around Israel’s neck. Alongside that, just last week, North Korea tested a long range missile that has the potential of carrying a nuclear warhead to the West Coast of America.
And if that isn’t enough, our intelligence services tell us that Al Qaeda is regrouping and reforming in North Africa. Internationally, things are rather unsettling. In fact, Jesus warns us, doesn’t He in Luke 21:26, “As we bump up against the soon return of the Lord Jesus Christ as the signs of the and unfold, that man’s heart will feel them for fear for the things that are coming upon the earth.” Internationally, things are unsettling and nationally, things aren’t much better. We’re running a 6 trillion debt. We’re about to go over the financial cliff. Morally, we’re sliding towards Sodom and Gomorrah with a normalization of homosexuality, an issue that’s about to be settled in the Supreme Court and we’re all holding our breath as to how that’s going to go.
We continue to slaughter innocent children in their mother’s wombs unabated, any mention of God is being exorcised from public to be it in life, family life is imploding, the use of drugs is being legitimized, gun massacres are on the rise, honest be it in differences over social and moral issues are being demagogue as racism and bigotry or a phony war on women, America is declining, America is dangerous, America is divided. Perhaps our culture is looking more like the days that Paul describes in 2 Timothy 3:1, “Where in the last days, perilous times will come, difficult times will come, violent times will come.” Those are the days we’re in. Internationally, it’s unsettling, at home, it’s not much better.
And then as we narrow the aperture and focus in on your life and my life, there’s all sorts of things going on in our homes. We’re all dealing with personal issues that frightens the daylight out of us. Our neighborhoods are declining in many cities, falling house prices, poor job prospects, prodigal children, health issues, big medical bills, poor school systems, shrinking retirement funds. And we could go on listing to things that are shaking our world. Not to mention by the way that it’s all coming to an end this Friday, the 21st. I don’t know if you knew that. So if you don’t want to shop for Christmas, just hold off. It’s the 21st this Friday.
In fact, I don’t often watch Jay Leno, but I caught him the other night for a few minutes and he said, “You know what? It’s all coming to an end on a Friday. Bummer. Why not a Monday.” If we’re going to work all week and let’s enjoy the weekend and then kaput on Monday. But he said, “Friday, bummer.” there’s plenty of things to scare us, isn’t there? That give us the jitters, whether we’re young or old, rich or poor, saved or unsaved, fear is to be reckoned with by all of us. And I would say as I encounter people and as I look out on life, and I don’t know if you agree with me on this, but the reality is that fear seems to be conquering us rather than us conquering it.
And so I want to come to Luke 1 and Luke 2 to a message I’ve entitled, have no fear. And I think it’s such a present and pressing issue. We’re just going to slow down and work our way through this Sunday and next Sunday. Thankfully, the Bible is a book that addresses this common problem and provides us with some answers to suppressing our fears. These two words stand out in the Bible like twin towers, fear not. I don’t know if you’ve ever asked yourself the question, What is it by far that God most frequently commands? You and I might think, don’t commit adultery. You and I might think, don’t have any other gods before me. You and I might think something like love one another, but if you’ll scan the corpus of scripture, you might be surprised to find out that God commands us to fear not more than any other command in the Bible.
Maybe there’s a hint there that God knows how frightened we can become, how unsettled and anxious we can become. We can get all tied up in knots emotionally, and I’m thankful there for the Bible addresses this issue again and again and again. Here’s an interesting thing. Warren Wiersbe helped me grasp this this week in a little devotional book I was reading by him on Christmas and I’d never noticed it before, but he helped me to see it. There are three fear nots in the Christmas story. Three characters, Zacharia, Mary, and the shepherds, in Luke one and two are told not to be afraid. Go to chapter one and verse 13, the encounter between the angel Gabriel and Zacharias, and here’s what we read, “But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias: for your prayer is heard; and your wife, Elisabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.”
Then in chapter one and verse 30, we have the encounter between the angel Gabriel and Mary. We read in verse 30, “Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a son and shall call his name Jesus. He shall be great and will be called the Son of The Highest.”
Then over in chapter two and verse 10, we have the story of the shepherds out in the fields near Bethlehem keeping their flocks by night. And all of a sudden the angel appears to them and with the angel are heavenly host, and you can imagine how disconcerting that would be. And we read in verse 10, “Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which will be to all people.”
The most common greeting in the Christmas story is this greeting, fear not, don’t be afraid. And so we’re going to look at these three encounters, these three episodes, and we’re going to learn how we might calm our fears to sleep. Listen, God has not given us a spirit of fear. 2 Timothy 1:7, that was Paul’s words to Timothy, living or running. Scared is not the calling of a child of God. The cowardly Christian has forgotten himself or herself and who they are in Christ and all the promises that Christ has made to them. So let’s look at these three incidents and three individuals.
Let me map out where we’re going. We’re going to cover the first one this morning, the encounter between Gabriel and Zacharias or Zacharia. And here’s what I’ve come up with, in the encounter with Zacharia, the principle we want to take from that is don’t panic, pray, don’t panic, pray.
Because what does God say to Zacharia? “Do not be a afraid, God has answered your prayer.” It’s a great thing to deal with the problems of life and to find yourself up against some wall with the assurance that God’s listening, God hears, God understands and He’s got ways to help you. We’re just going to camp there this morning, so don’t be afraid of pray, that’s what we would learn from Zacharia.
Secondly, don’t panic perform. That’s what we would learn from Mary. Because Mary’s told she’s going to bear the son of The Highest. She’s going to rear the very son of God. Talk about a calling, talk about an assignment. This is only a stripling of a girl, probably 15 or 16 when this is all unfolding. And yet the angel says to her, “Mary, don’t be afraid, highly favored one.” The word there for favor is the same word we get throughout the New Testament for grace, greatly graced, that’s what you are Mary. God’s going to supply all that you need to do all that He’s called you to do. And there’s a great lesson there.
Why don’t we not need to be afraid? Because we have the assurance that God hears and answers our prayer and we have the confidence that God will supply a binding abundant grace to do what He calls us to do, even if it’s in difficult circumstances. Whatever that cross is to carry whatever that burden is to bear, there is grace to do it. Amen. Don’t be afraid, pray, don’t be afraid, act or perform. And finally, don’t be afraid, praise. That’s what the angel says to the shepherds, “Hey guys, don’t be afraid. I bring you good news. I’m not going to exterminate you. I bring you good news. God is looking upon the world and has disposition His peace towards mankind.” And so he says, “I bring you good news of great joy”
And that great joy is what? It’s the gospel. It’s the relationship we can have with God through Jesus Christ. It’s the love that comes to us via Jesus Christ, a love from which we cannot be separated. And so no matter what our problem, no matter what situation we’re in, no matter what it is that threatens us, we meet that situation knowing that nothing will separate us from the love of God. We find our joy in the gospel. You might lose your job, you might lose your health, you might lose your family, but you can’t lose your savior or your salvation. So that’s all for next week. Don’t panic, pray, don’t panic, perform, don’t panic praise.
So let’s come to the first thought, don’t panic, pray. What is it that’s giving you the jitters? What is it that’s knocking on your door causing you not to answer the door? You don’t want to face that problem. It’s too much to think about when you think about it, you become frightened and so you try not to think about it. But we all know that doesn’t help to any degree. You ought to be praying with assurance that God will listen to you about your problem and God has got an ability to do something about it.
Is that not the message that comes out of the encounter with Zacharias and the angel Gabriel? Let’s go back to Luke 1:13 ame start here. Zacharias is in the temple offering incense to God, doing his priestly duty. While he’s there, the angel appears to him. We read in verse 12 that he was troubled and fear fell upon him rightly so. That’s a common reaction in the Bible to any angelic encounter. But the angel said to him, verse 13, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias or Zacharia either will do, for your prayer is heard and your wife Elisabeth will bear you a son and you shall call his name John and you will have joy and gladness and many will rejoice it his birth for he will be great in the sight of the Lord and he shall drink neither wine or strong drink. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.”
John’s going to be the forerunner to Jesus Christ. So here we have Zacharia, the priest and his wife Elizabeth. God comes at this special moment with this special message that their prayer about a son has been answered. I want you to just throw your arms around the drama of this moment. This is a once in a lifetime answer to prayer.
We’ll get to that in a moment, but it’s also a once in a lifetime moment and God has specifically and sovereignly chosen this moment to say to Zacharia that his prayer has been answered. Why do I say it’s a once in a lifetime moment? Because Zacharia, according to chapter one and verse five, was a priest of the order of Abijah. And so he was called to perform his priestly duty. And if you go back to 1 Chronicles 6:31-32, King David had established 24 divisions within the priesthood so that there would be order and a proper performance of priestly duty. That would mean that as Zacharia a priest would come and serve for two weeks out of the year at the temple at Jerusalem. But here’s the thing, by the time we get to this point in Jewish history, in Israel’s history, we reckon there was 18,000 priests.
The priesthood had mushroomed. So that would mean that they weren’t required to come up two weeks of the year, a lot, lot less. In fact, we estimate that Zacharia probably, only got into the Holy Place once in a lifetime given the number of priests there were. So this is a very special moment and there he is in the near presence of God doing his priestly duty, offering incense, which was symbolic of the prayers of God’s people, the crying of the people of God to Israel’s God for His favor. And in the middle of that he gets the fright of his life, like the guy on the taxi cab, he gets a tap on the shoulder and there stands the glorious Gabriel. And this guy’s sweating bullets wondering, “Hey, am I on some heavenly hit list? Is this my time? I don’t know.” And Gabriel says, “No, don’t be afraid. Your prayer has been answered and your wife Elisabeth will bear a son.”
Your prayer has been heard or answered in the Aorist tense which speaks of something past and there’s a debate among the commentators. Was Zacharias praying for the coming Messiah and God’s salvation towards Israel promised so long ago in the Old Testament? Was he praying at that moment again for God to open the womb of his wife Elisabeth?
I’m helped here by Lansky, the Great Lutheran Commentator, here’s what he says, “Some suppose it Zacharia begged God for a child even after he and his wife were past age. But why have his petition for a miracle? The request referred to by the angel is one that has been near during the years when childbirth was yet humanly possible. It is quite proper to have was heard referred to that time also, prayers are often effectively heard by God long before He sends the answer. Zacharia had long ago stopped praying for a child because like any godly Israelite, he did not think he had a right to ask for a miracle of God. But now it was the time that had been selected by God to grant all those fervent petitions of past years, yay and more than to grant them, to combine them with their parenting, their granting, the beginning of the fulfillment of the messianic hope.”
I’m not even sure Zachary, I was praying for a child because this is in the Aorist tense. It’s like, “Hey, Zachary, I remember that prayer you stopped praying so long ago, God heard it and He’s about to answer it and here you may be praying for the messianic hope, do you realize that your son is going to be the forerunner? He’s going to throw out the map for Jesus Christ himself?” This would explain his unbelief, wouldn’t it?
If the guy was praying for a miracle, why would he have unbelief? He had stopped praying. Once they had passed those childbearing years they’d stopped praying. But what we learn is that God does not forget what we have stopped praying for. That’s a wonderful reality. And so that’s what the angel conveys here to Zacharia. “Don’t panic, do not be afraid, your prayers have been answered and answered exceedingly, abundantly above all that you can ask or think.
Warren Wiersbe’s got some good insight here. All their married life, Zacharia and Elisabeth had prayed for a son and had joined the fearful Jewish remnant in asking God to send the promise Redeemer. Year after year it seemed that God wasn’t listening, but then the angel told Zacharia that his prayer had been heard. Only a God of love is willing to hear His people’s prayers. Only a God of wisdom knows how to answer His people’s prayers and only a god of power can provide His people’s prayers the answer.
We can only marvel at the providence of God as he brought everything together at the manger in Bethlehem. What’s the takeaway? Sunday morning, here we are in the Christmas season, here we are reading a Christmas story, here we are preaching a Christmas sermon. The takeaway is, don’t be afraid, pray. Know that God is listening. Know that God knows all about you, he has counted the very hairs on your head, knows what you’re about to ask before you ask it. He’s a God of love. He hears your prayer. He’s a God of wisdom and He’s working out when it is best to answer that prayer and how to answer that prayer and He’s not stuck as a God of power in how He can do it. Courage is fear that has said its prayers or as I was taught many years ago, I like that little statement. Knees don’t knock when you’re kneeling on them. My friend, prayer is one of the anecdotes to fright and fear.
Retreating into God’s presence in prayer, silences our fears and gives us a sense of invincibility, helps us gain our perspective again, helps us realize that God is bigger than any one of our problems. You see that working out, don’t you? In the language of the psalmus in Psalm 91, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day, Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noontime. A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you. Only with your eyes shall you look, and see the reward of the wicked.”
As this guy retreats in the God’s presence, he’s overwhelmed by the bigness of God, the love of God, the greatness of God. As he dwells under the shadow of the Almighty, he gets this sense of invincibility. Everything comes in a perspective, everything seems manageable now and he goes back out into life and he faces the battles of life unafraid. That’s what prayer will do. You get the same thought, don’t you Philippines 4:6? [inaudible 00:22:09] were told to pray about everything, to worry about nothing, to give thanks for anything and then what’s the consequences of prayer? Real prayer, believing prayer, submissive prayer. The consequence is and the peace of God which passes all understanding will stand guard over your heart.
The word guard is a brilliant Greek word. It’s a garrison, it’s a military term. God will garrison us. The angel of the Lord will encamp around to bid us. God’s providence will work in our favor. God cares and God listens to our prayers. “His eye is upon the righteous and his ear is open to their cry.” I love that verse verse 1 Peter 3:12. In fact, I’ll give you a better verse than that. Go back to Psalm 94:9, listen to what the psalmus says. “He who planted the ear, shall He not hear? And He who formed the eye, shall He not see?” God has given us eyes and ears to see and to hear, not to go through life blind or daff to people’s needs but to see their needs and hear their size. Well if that’s true of us, if God wants us to open our eyes and ears to the hurt of people around us how much more shall He who give the ear, shall He not hear? Shall He who form the eye, will He not see? He does.
God sees you this morning and God hears you this morning. It’s a wonderful thing to know that God indeed hears and answers our prayers. In fact, if you read Truth Matters this week, you’ll know that I did a devotional encouraging us to ask in the expectation we will receive. To go to God with our questions, our problems, our issues, and know that His eye is upon the righteous and His ear is open to their cry. Jesus told us to what? Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened to you. Prayer is not a game of hide and seek where we seek and God hides. We don’t have to badger God, we don’t have to bargain with God. Jesus goes on to make an analogy, if you been evil, know how to treat your kids well and here’s a great time of the year where we show that even dead beat fathers will bless their children this Christmas season.
There’ll be some modicum of goodness and grace shown for a moment. Sadly it retreats too often in the new year, “But if we been evil, know how to give good things? How much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those that ask?” It’s a nice promise right there, man. What’s your wishlist? Go to your father and if it’s in his well and it’s righteous and it’s good for you, He’ll give you it. We need to understand that. And then I brought before us three things. I want to go back over this Sunday morning when we realize that God answers prayer, there’s something about God’s answers I want you to be aware of. Have you ever thought about the fact that God answers prayers sometimes even before you pray them, You say, Hey, where’d you get that thought? Well, glad you asked. Let’s go to Isaiah.
Let’s go to Isaiah 65:24. This is a beautiful verse. Listen to what God says through Isaiah to his people. “It shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer.” How cool is that? Now listen, that’s no excuse not to pray. Don’t misread that text or misunderstand me. James would remind us more than often, “You have not because you ask not.” We don’t pray about enough. That’s our problem. But here’s a promise that while it’s no excuse not to pray, it’s a whopping comfort to know that God doesn’t always wait until we pray to give us what we need. Amen. He’s so good. He anticipates our need in His providence and in His omnissions that he doesn’t wait to bless us. He doesn’t wait till we ask. He just showers us with what we need. He’s ahead of the game.
I’ll tell you what, I was thinking about this, if I only got what I prayed for, I’d be pretty poor. God often gives me things I don’t even ask for or even before I get around to ask Him. This is a beautiful reality. In His wonderful grace, He anticipates and provides our every need and he can do that since according to Matthew 6:8, He knows what we need before we give him our 2 cents worth.
Let me tell you a powerful story how this worked out, how I learned about this verse. I only learned this verse through one of the deacon in my first church in Northern Ireland. It’s the 23rd of September, 1992. I’m huddled with some of our congregation in a little prayer meeting at Carr Baptist Church, beautiful little church outside Belfast in the beautiful county Down in Northern Ireland. It was our evening prayer meeting and Bible study. Around about 8:45 as we were praying, the silence was broken in the distance by a loud explosion, a loud boom. We knew something was wrong.
This was during the time of the troubles in Northern Ireland and we went on with the meeting and we got to a time of prayer and one of our elders, Eddie McCloskey got up and we had a number of man in the security forces, some part-time soldiers and some full-time policemen in our church. So we began to pray for them out of an ignorance of all that was going on. We mentioned a number of them by name and one name was a man by the name of Hugh Sprat. He was a neighbor of June and I. He was a police officer and we prayed for him. It was only the next day we learned 8:45, the IRA had set off a bomb outside the Forensics Department of the Royal Ulster Constabulary in Newtownbreda East Belfast. That’s where the police hides all its forensics evidence against the terrorists.
And a car had been driven up earlier that night, set outside the police station, one of our congregations, Hugh Sprat was on duty, discovered the car abandoned and immediately raised the alarm. The police forensics department is right in front of a large [inaudible 00:28:55] estate called Beaver Estate. And so Hugh, after raising the alarm, he started running through the neighborhood wrapping doors and shining for people to get out of their homes and get away from the bomb site. And as he was doing that, the bomb went off. It was huge, 2000 pounds of explosives. In fact, Hugh told us literally the iron railings of the police station were flying through the air like Javelins landing in people’s gardens around the devastation. That was 8:45. We prayed for him about 9:05. We were a little late in getting there.
The next [inaudible 00:29:34] that we got together, Bobby Green, one of our godly deacons who’s now with the Lord stood up and said, “Guys, as Isaiah 65:24, “Before you call, I will answer.” I had already my eye on Hugh Sprat 8:45, you got the praying for him at 9:05.”
God’s ahead of the game. God knows what we need before we even ask it. And sometimes He gives it before we ask it. Amen. God not only answers our prayer before we ask, God often answers our prayer while we ask, that same day at that present time. And let me give you a couple of verses. Go to Psalm 138:3. Listen to this. This is the psalmus we’ll break in verse one. “I will praise You with my whole heart; Before the gods I will sing praises to You. I will worship toward Your holy temple, and praise Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; You have magnified Your word above all Your name. In the day when I cried out, You answered me, and made me bold with strength in my soul.”
There’s a promise God not only hears us and answers us before we pray, He often is already sending the answer while we pray. That’s very encouraging. That lights are fire under our prayer lives and brings us to a greater place of fervency and prayer and belief in prayer. Do you want to write this down Acts 12:1-17. I think you know that story where Peter and some of the apostles get arrested and we read, “And the church met and began to pray for them.” And that night the angel comes to Peter and tells him, “You’re getting out of here.” And there’s this jail break. And Peter goes immediately to the place where the church was gathered praying, raps on the door, some girl comes, looks and realizes it’s Peter, shuts the door and is fierce and runs and tells everybody, “Miss, you have seen a ghost or something. You’re crazy.”
Talk about prayerless prayer, there you have it. But here they are praying for Peter’s release and the answer standing in the very threshold of the room that very day, that very hour. God’s like that. I love that. Sometimes He answers before we pray. Sometimes he answers while we’re praying. But as in the case of Zacharia and Elisabeth and I think more often than not, He answers after we pray. There’s tense, Luke 1:13. Gabriel says to Zacharia, “Hey, your prayer has been answered.” If I’ve understood the text right and Lansky has helped us get there, he had stopped praying for a son after the childbearing years. What he had forgotten, God had never forgotten. God remembered to be good to Zacharias and God answered his prayer exceedingly, abundantly above all that he could ask or think.
You want an example of what we’re talking about? Then we have another story of a mother who was childless and it was a tough assignment for Hannah back in 1 Samuel, right? You know this story back in 1 Samuel 1. Elkanah, her husband loved her, but no amount of gifts could compensate for the disappointment she felt and the burden that she carried in not burying her husband a child. He had another wife who bore him a child, and she often poked fun at Hannah, rub salt into the wound. How cruel? But we read that eventually God gives her a child. He tells us that indeed prayer was a big part of the answer. Go to chapter one and verse 27, Samuel’s born, “For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him.”
But I want you to notice how the text describes God’s answer and in what way? Go back to verse 19. “Then they rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord, and returned and came to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife.” They were one physically and sexually. “And the Lord remembered her.” She had prayed many times on many occasions. Time had gone by. She had endured her companions barbs and carried the disappointment of not having a child to Elkanah, but the Lord hadn’t for forgot the Lord remembered. And that’s often the case.
When you and I are tempted to give up, when you and I maybe have forgotten even some of the things we prayed for, God doesn’t forget. And in His love He hears and in His wisdom, He works out the best time and the best way for that prayer to be answered. And in His power He delivers. Ask and you shall receive sometimes before, sometimes during, most of the times after, but don’t panic, pray. In fact, as we take the last five minutes, I think this whole idea we’ve been delving into would remind us that we’ve got to trust God with the timing.
Sometimes before, sometimes during, more often than not, after. One month, one year, two years, three years. But God will remember sometimes even when we have forgotten and we’ve got the trust the timing with him. We’ve looked at the timing of the answer to this prayer. God picked a marvelous moment because he was going to do something exceedingly, abundantly above all that they could ask or think. They had stopped praying after those childbearing years. They didn’t expect a miracle. God gives them a miracle and God gives them a son and not just any son, it’s John, the one who will prepare the way of the Lord. And the moment that he learns it is that once in a lifetime moment when he is at the altar of incense in the Holy Place. That’s pretty cool. I like what God did there.
Spurgeon would remind us that God’s long deeded bills will be punctually honored and God blesses us by temporary delays as well as prompt replies. We need to remind ourselves this morning that God’s delays are not God’s denials. I don’t have time to go long into this, but God’s timing is perfect. Ecclesiastes 3:11 reminds us of that. “He makes all things beautiful in his time.” That’s one of the paradoxes that a God who is eternal, who has existed from everlasting to everlasting, who is not bound by time nevertheless works to the tick-tock of the clock and often picks that perfect moment to reach out to us, to supply our needs, to solve our problems. Ask Abraham servant. He was on a road for weeks on a search for a bride for Isaac, and he happens to arrive at a well one day at the exact moment when Isaac’s future wife Rebecca was coming to water her sheep. You can read about it in Genesis 24:14-15.
What a coincidence? No, what a providence. Ask the Shunammite woman, her son had been brought back to life by the prophet Elisha. Several years later, she went to the king about a property dispute. Lo and behold, as she goes before the king, Elisha’s servant is standing in the king’s presence at the very moment recounting the woman’s story of many years ago. You can read about that in 2 Kings 8:5. What a coincidence? No. What a providence? God making everything beautiful in His time. In the crème de la crème Mary and Joseph, they were compelled to return to their place of birth for the purposes of a census under Caesar Augustus, there in the time of Bethlehem, Jesus was born at the right time, in the right place in fulfillment of Micah 5:2, “That out of Bethlehem and out of Judah would come a ruler.” We read in Galatians 4:4, that, “In the fullness of time Gods send forth his son.”
What a coincidence? No, what a providence? The eternal God is always on time. In all these cases, God orchestrated the details that brought the pieces together at the right time so that His plan would unfold in the right way. God is not in a hurry. He knows what he’s doing in us and for us and about us. God deserves our trust. God requires our patience and you and I need to set our watches to heaven’s time. “In His time, He makes all things beautiful in his time.”
I think I’ve told you the story about the fella who was very punctual. Year after year, month in, month out, he would get up at 6:30, he’d go through his morning routine. He’d shower, he’d shave, he’d press his clothes, he’d sit down to a breakfast, then he would get in his car, drive a few miles down to the ferry port. He would board a ferry. He’d go across to the city center. He’d walk a few blocks. He’d take the elevator to the 17th floor. He’d hang his coat and his umbrella right there at 7:59 every single morning. 7:59 on the dot like clockwork.
And one particular morning man, for some inexplicable reason, he sleeps in and he finds himself in a total panic. He barely washes himself. He nicks himself in shaving, he gobbles down some cold eggs and a mouthful of coffee. He grabs his briefcase and his umbrella and his coat and rushes out the door, jumps in his car, drives like a maniac down to the quayside.
And as he arrives, he sees that the boat he normally takes is about 10 or 15 feet away from the harbor side. And he says, “You know what? If I run fast enough and jump long enough? I’ll make it. And so the guy runs like an Olympic sprinter and jumps like a long jumper and he lands in the deck of the ship. And up in the bridge, the captain is seeing all this. So the guy running and said, He’s not going to do it. He’s not going to do it. He did it. The guy land that he runs down to see if he was okay. He said, “Are you crazy, sir?” He said, “If you’d have just waited one minute, you could have walked on.”
I love that story. And sometimes we think that God’s answers are going that way, when really, they’re really coming this way. If we just have the patience to wait in the fullness of time. Christmas reminds us that God sent his son and Christmas reminds us that God hears prayers long prayed and answers them in His time. Don’t panic, pray. And may the peace of God which passes all understanding, stand like a guard over your heart as 2012 dies and 2013 is born.
Let’s pray. Lord, we thank you for our time and the word this morning. I thank you for this marvelous theme threaded through the nativity narrative. Lord, we thank you that your common greeting to us is don’t be a afraid Lord. We are like sheep with without a shepherd at times, we act that way. Lord, there are many things in life that perturb us and disturb us internationally, domestically, personally. Some of us are here this morning, and Lord, we’re churning up inside. Our stomach is in a knot, our mind is not at peace, our heart is racing. There are things that threaten us, disturb us, rob us of the peace which passes all understanding. Lord, there are no easy solutions. We realize, Lord, this isn’t a matter of free hail Mary and we’re fine.
But oh God help us to wrestle with you in prayer. To truly come by the throne of grace, knowing you to be our Father, a good father who gives good things, a God who listens, a God who hears, and even if days go by a God who has not forgotten. What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer. Oh, what peace we often forfeit and oh, what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.
Lord, we thank you for that word to Zacharias. Don’t be afraid. I have heard your prayer. And we ask it in Jesus name. Amen.