Sermon by Landon Jack December 23, 2018
I always enjoy hearing Christmas travel stories. Often these stories are full of humor and adventure. You may very well have our own travel stories. A lampoon mishap adventure that happened when you least expect it. This time last year, my wife and I were on our way to see her family in Saskatoon. Everything seemed to be going smoothly, though is was cold out, the roads were quite fair. It wasn’t long after we left Camrose that our oil light began to go on. About an hour into the drive I decided to take a look at the level. (Pastor Alvin’s advice…don’t wait an hour next time the oil light comes on) To my shock it was bone dry and upon further inspection, the whole underside of our vehicle was caked with oil. Being close to North Battleford, we bought some oil and proceeded to fill our engine; but every time we added oil, it would just leak right out.(More advice from Pastor, don’t drive when you see the oil leaking out as fast as you put it in). Finally arriving at our destination, we took the vehicle in and for most of the day I proceeded to stress about what could’ve happened, and how much it would cost. Had a seal worn? Or maybe a broken gasket? As with most Christmases, money was tight, and we didn’t have 1000 or so bucks for repair, nor did we have enough money to buy a new car if we needed to. But luckily, and 150 dollars later, we found the problem- some bolts had fallen out of our oil pan. An easy fix, but one we would never forget, and a memory that we often laugh and rejoice over now.
I’m sure you all have your travel stories. Our text for this Sunday shares the story of Mary, traveling to a Judean town to visit her relatives Zechariah and Elizabeth. I haven’t paid much attention to this text in the past, for to me it wasn’t the most important, or exciting parts of the Bible. But in recent days I’ve been thinking more and more about Mary and her pregnancy. My wife Amy is currently over the half way in her own pregnancy as we are expecting our first baby; so now more than ever do I put myself and my wife in the shoes of Mary and Joseph. It is quite an amazing adventure having a child. My wife is in nesting mode, trying to get everything ready for the coming baby; and there I am, stressing out about having to keep another human being alive for the next eight-teen years (Pastor Alvin’s note…it may be even a few days past 18 years). But still, there is something wonderful and joyous about having a child and the nine months wait. Mary similarly was waiting, as was her relative Elizabeth, who was also pregnant.
But Mary, as we know, was not carrying just any child, but the Son of God, and in fact God himself. The Saviour was coming into the world. The story continues stating that when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, her baby leaped in her womb and she was filled with the Holy Spirit. Her baby, John the Baptist, knew right from the womb that Mary’s unborn baby was the Saviour to come. I always find it interesting that even in utero, John was praising Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit. He knew that the Lord was coming into the word. The long-expected Christ, the one who was the focus of so many prophesies was finally coming.
It is amazing that our Lord God would choose to come down in such a way. Taking on the form of one of his own creation, coming to earth as a baby boy. This is a testament to the love of our God and of his character. He sends his son not as a dictator or a ruling king, but as a servant and a sacrifice. The Jewish world would have been all too familiar with this idea of sacrifices. After all, animal sacrifice was synonymous with the forgiveness of sins ever since Cain and Abel.
The Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death, and the sacrifice of an animal was to take the place of the Hebrew people, bridging that gap between them and God. And like a sacrifice, the baby Jesus was coming, full of grace and truth, not as a despotic overlord, but as a sacrifice; coming into the world to take the place of these animals (and do what the animal sacrifices could not)
As the book of Hebrews states “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; in burnt offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘see, God, I have come to do your will, O God.’” It is not as though God did not institute offerings and sacrifices, He certainly did. If we were to say this then we would be lying. After all, like we’ve said, there must be a price for our sins; and the price is death – our death. However, God in his mercy chose the blood of animals as substitution (covering) for a time. Not a practice that would be kept forever, but only for a time until the right sacrifice had come. God did not desire the blood of goats or lambs, but of his Son Jesus Christ. “In burnt offerings you have taken no pleasure.” But the offering of Christ is indeed pleasurable in His sight. The pure offering, one without blemish of stain of sin. For this Christ humbled himself, doing the will of the Father.
As John the Baptist leapt in his Mothers womb, he knew that this child had come into the world to be a sacrifice for the world. Not a sacrifice that has to be repeated over and over again, but once and for all. Like John, we should also leap for joy at this. Christ has come into the world that he might enlighten our hearts and be the atoning sacrifice for us, and whoever puts their trust in him should be saved. And as Christ lays in the manger, this may well be a foretelling of him laying in the tomb. A picture of his death on the cross for the sins of the world. This is why we leap for joy; for without Christ’s death on the cross, we would have no atonement for our sins, and therefor, no connection with the Father.
The reason why Christ is a servant is because he came here, not to dictate to us, but to die for us. Humbly he comes to us as our Lord and saviour, not out of any merit of our own, but out of love for his creation. Taking our place on the cross. At this time of year, we think heavily about gifts. Giving gifts, receiving gifts, the right gift to give your loved ones so that they won’t be disappointed on Christmas day. But let us not forget the greatest gift of all, the gift of Gods one and only son Jesus Christ and whose presence we desperately need everyday. Remembering always that Christ has indeed come into the world, as a servant, to die on a cross, to be raised for the dead… for you and me. To him be all the power and all the glory forever and ever. Amen.