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Praying with Anticipation (No. 12 of the Series “Prayer: What Difference Does It Make?”)

Today’s message summary of December 17, 2017 from Assistant Pastor Travis Jackson:

Luke 2:1-40

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole empire should be registered. This first registration took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So everyone went to be registered, each to his own town. 

Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped him tightly in cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, Dont be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped tightly in cloth and lying in a manger.

Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

Glory to God in the highest heaven,

and peace on earth to people he favors!

When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, Lets go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.

They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the manger. After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had seen and heard, which were just as they had been told.

When the eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesusthe name given by the angel before he was conceived. And when the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were finished, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (just as it is written in the law of the Lord, every firstborn male will be dedicated to the Lord and to offer a sacrifice (according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons).

There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking forward to Israels consolation, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he saw the Lords Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, he entered the temple. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him up in his arms, praised God, and said,

Now, Master,

you can dismiss your servant in peace,

as you promised.

For my eyes have seen your salvation.

You have prepared it

in the presence of all peoples

a light for revelation to the Gentiles

and glory to your people Israel.

His father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and told his mother Mary: Indeed, this child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposedand a sword will pierce your own soulthat the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

There was also a prophetess, Anna, a daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well along in years, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and was a widow for eighty-four years. She did not leave the temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayers. At that very moment, she came up and began to thank God and to speak about him to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. 

When they had completed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The boy grew up and became strong, filled with wisdom, and Gods grace was on him.

Caesar Augustus’ decree made note of the number of people he could render with taxes, but little did he know was acting within God’s control and predestination of the coming of Jesus Christ and His birth in Bethlehem.  Caesar was the head of the Roman Empire, but God was the head of Caesar.

Each one of us is a part of God’s divine plan to live according to His purpose.

Note also the significance of the lineage of David and the prophetic message of Micah:

Micah 5:2-5

Bethlehem Ephrathah,

you are small among the clans of Judah;

one will come from you

to be ruler over Israel for me.

His origin is from antiquity,

from ancient times.

Therefore, Israel will be abandoned until the time

when she who is in labor has given birth;

then the rest of the rulers brothers will return

to the people of Israel.

He will stand and shepherd them

in the strength of the Lord,

in the majestic name of the Lord his God.

They will live securely,

for then his greatness will extend

to the ends of the earth.

He will be their peace.

When Assyria invades our land,

when it marches against our fortresses,

we will raise against it seven shepherds,

even eight leaders of men.

 

The Anticipation of Joseph and Mary (Luke 2:1-7)

Mary was chosen by God to bear and be the mother of the Son of God.  We know that her life changed drastically.  She was hidden for much of her pregnancy and spent much of her time with Elizabeth (she avoided public view to prevent ridicule), and Joseph was going to divorce her quietly (Matthew 1:18-23).

We understand that Mary was blessed because of who she gave birth to.

Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, recognized this truth as well, and told her:

Luke 1:39-45

In those days Mary set out and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judah  where she entered Zechariahs house and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Marys greeting, the baby leaped inside her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she exclaimed with a loud cry: Blessed are you among women, and your child will be blessed! How could this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For you see, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped for joy inside me. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill what he has spoken to her!

Joseph honored God’s request to not divorce Mary, and was told to get up and flee Herod’s effort to destroy the first born children.

Matthew 2:13-15

After they were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, Get up! Take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. For Herod is about to search for the child to kill him. So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night, and escaped to Egypt. He stayed there until Herods death, so that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled: Out of Egypt I called my Son.

The world was now beholding the presence of their Savior–the Lord of all creation:

Luke 2:6-7

While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped him tightly in cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

Did Mary understand the magnitude and significance of who her child was?

 

The Anticipation of the Shepherds and Angels (Luke 2:8-21)

Look upon these verses and ask yourself this question:  Why did God grant the shepherds the privilege of hearing the message of Christ’s birth?

The shepherds were likely looked down upon by members of society, and because they could not keep up with all of the matters of purification as proclaimed by the Pharisees.  God directly chose the shepherds because He wanted to show that He Himself would be the Shepherd for all of the people.

Ezekiel 34:15-16

I will tend my flock and let them lie down. This is the declaration of the Lord God. I will seek the lost, bring back the strays, bandage the injured, and strengthen the weak, but I will destroy the fat and the strong. I will shepherd them with justice.

This is exactly what Jesus said of Himself:

John 10:7-10

Jesus said again, Truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep didnt listen to them. I am the gate. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.

He proclaimed the good news of salvation and eternal life.

When you look at Jesus Christ’s birth, it was His presence that gives each one of us life.  It is a wonderful assurance of His birth taken in the human form of a servant and humbled Himself through His life to the cross.

Don’t gloss over this moment during this holiday season and recognize that the greatest gift is that from Jesus Christ and eternal life through salvation.

The shepherds received the information from the angels (the word “angel” means “messenger”), and glorified God for everything that they had seen after the angels told them what was happening.  They were able to share the message with others.

Angels played a major part of delivering the message of salvation to the people here.

Luke 2:11-14

Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped tightly in cloth and lying in a manger.

Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

Glory to God in the highest heaven,

and peace on earth to people he favors!

1 Peter 1:12

It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you.  These things have now been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.  Angels desire to look into these things.

The angels are waiting in anticipation of God’s promise of the completion of His plan and how He will reconcile everything to Himself.

If we fail to praise God, the angels certainly will do it.  They are waiting with great anticipation as to how everything will come about.

 

The Anticipation of Simeon and Anna (Luke 2:22-40)

Luke 2:25-35

There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking forward to Israels consolation, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he saw the Lords Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, he entered the temple. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him up in his arms, praised God, and said,

Now, Master,

you can dismiss your servant in peace,

as you promised.

For my eyes have seen your salvation.

You have prepared it

in the presence of all peoples

a light for revelation to the Gentiles

and glory to your people Israel.

His father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and told his mother Mary: Indeed, this child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposedand a sword will pierce your own soulthat the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

 

Simeon prayed to the Lord that he would not see death until he saw the Savior, and God promised him that he would.  He knew when he was going to pass on, but it was clear that the Spirit was on him and was speaking to him about the Messiah. Simeon was anticipating the appearance of the Messiah and noted that He was not just for the Jews but also for the Gentiles.  He learned from this experience that God would bring all people to Himself.

Anna was faithful to God because of her dedication to worship and praise continually day and night.  When she came to the temple, she showed her appreciation over His presence and was anticipating His coming.

We anticipate Christ’s return and His declaration as Lord and Savior of our lives.

 

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God’s Plan For The Favored

God never operates in a hurry. He has a plan, and follows it in a deliberate manner. As He works through His plan, He also has a plan for each of us. While we can’t even begin to know how or when He is working through His plan, we can be certain that He is preparing us throughout the entire process. God created us for the purpose of glorifying God in carrying out His will and purpose through each and every one of us.

How has God prepared you to be used by Him? He has a purpose for you and desires to work His will through your life.

God had a plan as to how Jesus Christ would be introduced to the world.

Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).

Mary had no idea that she would be the virgin mother of Jesus. While it was never a consideration to her, it was God’s plan for her life. At that time, Joseph was preparing to get married to Mary, but also did not know that he would soon be the earthly father of Jesus.

Why did God select Mary and Joseph to bring forth and raise His child, Jesus Christ? We will see that as individual as we are, God communicates his will and purpose to us in different ways. Mary received her information from the angel, Gabriel.

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came to her and said, ‘Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you‘” (Luke 1:26-28).

Note that the word “favored” is used here, which is also used in Ephesians 1:6–“…to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved.” God knew that He was going to use Mary in this way, for He knew of Mary’s nature and her desire to be used of God. She already had a heart for God in place. He gives us this grace and ability even before we are born, and He develops us throughout our lifetime in order that we can be of use by Him even when we are unaware of it. While it was difficult, at the time, for Mary to understand how she would be conceived by the Holy Spirit, she did understand how God used Elizabeth to show that even being in an advanced age and previously barren, that she was pregnant, “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

Elizabeth was also prepared by God for the moment when Mary would visit her as there is a declaration that the participants were willing to be used by God. “In those days Mary set out and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judah where she entered Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped inside her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she exclaimed with a loud cry: ‘You are the most blessed of women, and your child will be blessed! How could this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For you see, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped for joy inside me! She who has believed is blessed because what was spoken to her by the Lord will be fulfilled!‘” (Luke 1:39-45).

The lesson in this is that Mary had to still endure the difficulty of being pregnant, especially during a time when it was frowned upon for women to be pregnant outside of marriage, yet, she was ready and willing to be obedient to the Lord and His will. At times, being obedient to the Lord will not always leave you in a position of popularity with your family, friends, or acquaintances. Our obedience to the Lord, nonetheless, solidifies our relationship with Him and reinforces us as His children in Christ.

Joseph realized that Mary was pregnant, and that he had not had any relations with her. He had to have been devastated, yet, what occurred next showed that Joseph was a man of character in how he responded to this matter. He was moving to a place where he would divorce her quietly until he received word of what was actually happening. Joseph was a man who knew God’s Word, and he believed the verses from Scripture that confirmed what was happening at that time with his future wife being a virgin who would be conceived by the Holy Spirit. The fulfillment of Scripture from the Old Testament prophets foretold that this would take place (Isaiah 7:14). “The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly. But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.’ Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel, which is translated ‘God is with us.’ When Joseph got up from sleeping, he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him. He married her but did not know her intimately until she gave birth to a son. And he named Him Jesus” (Matthew 1:18-25). Note that Joseph, in respect and reverence of God’s plan, went as far as to avoid intimacy with Mary until after she gave birth to Jesus, because there was to be no question of Jesus’ virgin birth.

In Mary and Joseph, there was a willingness to be used by God. How willing are you to see how God can use you? Mary saw God’s plan through evidence of what was happening in Elizabeth’s life, and Joseph accepted God’s plan through evidence of His Word. Both Mary and Joseph were declared righteous by God, and were both obedient to God when called upon. Both were prepared for the moment to bring forth Jesus Christ in His appointed time (John 1:13-14).

Jesus was to be the Savior (Matthew 1:23). He was prophesied throughout the Old Testament that He would be the Messiah. Only God Himself could deal with sin and save His people. Jesus declared that He and the Father are one. The gift of salvation comes from believing in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. Salvation is His gift, but there is a divine purpose behind it…He wants to use you for His glory and for His purpose.