Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, John the Baptist, Simeon, and Anna waited with anticipation for the word from God to be revealed through the birth of his Son.
After 400 years of silence, a length of time when it would have been so easy for people to give up hope, God made good on his promise and Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah, arrived.
Let’s live with an attitude of anticipation that he’s coming back someday — a new day when all things will be set right. And until he comes back, let’s allow God to use us to be Jesus to the waiting world.
Full Sermon Script:
This is the second week of our series “Prepare the Way.”
Last week we talked about preparing our minds and we looked at some very practical ways we can do that.
Today is about preparing our attitudes.
And I want to talk today about an attitude of anticipation.
Think about how we love anticipation.
We say things like, “I just can’t wait for that movie to come out.”
“I just can’t wait for the new season of — whatever show you love — to come out.”
“I can’t wait until we get married.”
“I can’t wait until those cookies are done.”
“I can’t wait for the 49ers to win the Super Bowl.”
“I can’t wait for the Cubs to win the world series.” Okay I may have to wait another 100 years for that one.
I think one of the reasons I love Christmas so much is that Christmas is just full of anticipation.
We say, “I just can’t wait ’til Christmas gets here.”
“I can’t wait to go home for Christmas.”
“I can’t wait to see my family.”
“I can’t wait to bring a friend to Blue Oaks on Christmas Eve.”
“I can’t wait to see how many people are touched by God this year.”
I love anticipation.
When you’re standing in line in an amusement park, waiting for a roller coaster, it’s the best part of the ride because your heart is pounding with anticipation.
In fact, being next in line is probably one the most fun places to be… except for when you’re at the dentist’s office.
There’s a big difference between being 50th in line, when you’re waiting at Best Buy for the new gaming system or at Apple for the new iPhone… and quite another to be next in line.
Being next feels great!
When you’re standing in a long line at the store, or at the airport, or the bank, and all of a sudden, you’re finally next… it feels great.
I can hardly contain myself when I’m next. I think being next is actually better than when it’s actually your turn.
There’s just this adrenaline rush when you’re next.
Often I just let people go in front of me, so I can continue being next. Okay, no I don’t.
But, there’s something about being next. There’s something about living with a sense of anticipation.
Well, in Luke 1 we find the nation of Israel waiting.
For centuries they had been waiting.
They were oppressed by Egypt.
They were oppressed by Babylon, Persia, Assyria.
They were oppressed by their own rebellion, sin, and division.
And now they were oppressed by the vast Roman Empire.
And their own King Herod wasn’t much better.
And so they waited. Many waited. Millions waited. But only a few waited with anticipation.
In the first couple chapters of the Book of Luke, where the dateline is approximately 6 B.C., it has been about 400 years since the people had a word from God about the promised Messiah.
It was a time of silence, a time when it might have been easy to give up hope.
And it’s in these two chapters that we’re introduced to some amazing people:
Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Simeon, and Anna — people who lived with a sense that “we’re next” —
“The Messiah really is coming. God is moving, just like he said he would. We’re next — O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.”
Much like Abraham and Sarah of the Old Testament, Zechariah and Elizabeth both were very old, and they were not able to have children.
Zechariah was a priest. And you’ll see in the first chapter of Luke that from the time of David there were 24 divisions of priests, and Zechariah was in one of those divisions.
In every division a priest was responsible for a whole week’s service at the temple once every six months, and this was Zechariah’s particular week.
He had gone into the inner part of the temple to keep the incense burning.
Now, not every priest got to do this job. It was a privilege to get picked, sort of by a lottery system. And Zechariah’s number comes up so he gets to go into the most holy place to burn incense on behalf of all the people who were waiting outside.
And while he’s in there, listen to what happens.
Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear.
But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.
He said, “Zechariah, your son, John, is going to be filled with God’s Spirit and he’s going to move through life with power and wisdom; and he’s going to prepare the way for the promised Messiah. He’s going to draw people back to God, and he’s going to get their hearts ready for his arrival. He may not be seen as great in the eyes of men, but he’s going to be seen as great in the eyes of God.”
And Zechariah’s response is basically, “Excuse me? You’ve got to be kidding. My wife and I are, like… really old.”
And I love verse 19. Gabriel kind of gets an attitude with Zechariah.
“I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 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 appointed time.” (Luke 1:19-20).
And Zechariah was unable to speak for nine months.
Zechariah goes home and he writes down to Elizabeth what’s going to happen.
And Elizabeth does get pregnant.
She’s thrilled about the fact she’s going to have a baby.
There was a stigma in those days, a social stigma, that if you were unable to conceive, God must be punishing you for some severe, secret sin in your life.
And Elizabeth says:
“The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” (Luke 1:25)
Then down to verse 28:
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.
You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 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, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon 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.
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. For no word from God will ever fail.”
I want you to hang onto that phrase right there — For no word from God will ever fail.
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:28-38)
I want to live with that kind of attitude, don’t you?
I want to be able to say, “God, whatever you want to do with me. God, I really believe that you know me better than I know me. I just want to be used by you, God. I really don’t fully grasp all this, but I do know one thing: I trust you. And I eagerly anticipate what you’re going to do with my life.”
We read that Mary was filled with anticipation and excitement and she hurried down to see Elizabeth.
This was not, like, she just goes next door to Elizabeth’s house. She had to pack up and travel from Nazareth all the way down to Judah to see Elizabeth.
And when she gets there, she’s filled with anticipation. She’s filled with the Holy Spirit.
And Elizabeth says, “You are so blessed, and the child that you are carrying is my Lord.”
In fact, look at verses 44-45:
As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her! (Luke 1:44-45)
Elizabeth looks at Mary and says, “I’m telling you, we are so excited for you. I’m excited! Zechariah is excited! He can’t really say much about it; but believe me, he’s excited.
Oh, the joy of anticipation.
Well, the day comes when John is born. Friends and neighbors and family are so happy for Elizabeth. And they assume they’re going to name him Zechariah. That was the normal practice in that day, to name the son after the father.
But his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.” (Luke 1:60).
No one in the whole family has that name, and they turn to Zechariah to find out what he thinks. And Zechariah asks for a writing tablet, probably a little piece of wood with wax covering. Look at verse 63:
He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” (Luke 1:63).
And when he does that, immediately he is able to speak.
And it says the people were filled with awe, and they said this was going to be one special child.
You know, when My daughter was born, you couldn’t shut me up. Imagine being Zechariah and unable to speak for nine months. He stands up and he just lets loose with a song about what’s happening.
It’s recorded in Luke 1:67-79 if you want to read it later.
He says what we’ve waited for is actually coming true: the Lord has raised up a horn of salvation. Salvation is coming for all people.
And then he grabs his little boy, and we read in verses 76-79 that he says:
And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1: 76-79)
And that’s exactly what John the Baptist would grow up to do. He would eagerly prepare the way for Jesus’ arrival.
He also would live with a sense of anticipation for the day when Jesus would actually walk up to him at the Jordan River and he could say to all the people there, “Look, here he is. He’s the one I’ve been talking about.”
“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
Oh the power of living with anticipation!
Now look at Luke 2:25-26.
Here’s a guy you don’t hear a lot about in the Christmas story.
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. (Luke 2:25-26)
Have you noticed how many times the Holy Spirit has showed up in this story so far? Just like the Angel said to Zachariah, it is…
“Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord. (Zechariah 4:6).
Alright, continuing in Luke 2:27-32:
Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” (Luke 2:27-32)
It’s kind of remarkable that a Jewish man recognizes this is not just for Israel, this is for all people. This is a revelation for all people all over the world.
And he says, “God, you know what? You can just take me home now, because I’ve been waiting, I’ve been anticipating this moment all my life. Lord, I got up this morning like I do every day and I thought, you know, this just might be the day. And it turns out, it is. Thank you so much God!”
Do you live with a sense of hope like that?
Do you ever get up and think: You know what?
This just might be the day that I make a difference.
This might be the day where I make a new friend.
This might be the day my old friend believes in God.
This might be the day where my child believes.
This might be the day when my parents believe.
This might be the day when my spouse stops drinking.
This might be the day when my dad finally hugs me.
This might be the day when my heart finally feels free to love again.
This might be the day when I finally pass my final’s test.
This might be the day where God shines through me like he never has before.
Now, I’m not talking about living with unrealistic expectations.
There are some things you have no control over and many times you just need to move on with your life.
I’m talking about living with a sense of trust in God.
When you live with a sense of hope and anticipation, it moves your focus off of the situation you might be in and onto the one who promises to work in your life however and whenever he chooses to.
He may not do it in the way that you expect it or exactly how you thought it would or should be done but he causes all things to work together for good to those who love him.
If you remember, that’s the promise from Romans 8:28 that we studied in October.
Mary said, “I don’t get it, but I’m your servant. Whatever God wants me to do, I’m willing to do.”
And now Simeon tells her it’s not going to be exactly like she might think it’s going to be.
Look at verse 33.
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:33-35)
He’s saying, “Mary, listen. It’s not going to be all you think it’s going to be. He’s going to shake things up. I mean, the proud, the mighty, the self-righteous — they’re going to fall. The poor, the blind, the crippled, the oppressed, the forgotten, the humble — they’re going to rise. And he’s going to reveal everyone’s heart for what they truly are. And as wonderful as your little boy is, it’s not going to be easy for you to watch what’s going to happen.”
And it wasn’t.
But God used her for his perfect plan.
In Luke 2:36-38 we see there was another woman in this story living with daily anticipation.
She’s called a prophetess. Her name was Anna.
Luke says she had been married for seven years and then widowed for 84 years.
Now some commentaries say she was 84 years old; others say she was married for seven years and then a widow for 84 years. Even if she was married at the earliest age of 12, she’d be 103. So whether she was 84 or 103, she was really old.
But obviously, she is still very, very vibrant. She’s at the temple all the time; day and night she’s there.
She prayed, she fasted, and she eagerly anticipated the coming of the promised Messiah.
In verse 38, Luke says she came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph.
Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
When I was reading this text, it just stood out to me how Simeon and Anna held on to the word of God… and how Zechariah and Elizabeth and John and Mary all trusted what God had said.
They waited with anticipation for God to come through.
They knew nothing was impossible for God.
They knew he would never, ever break a promise.
They knew that no word from God ever fails.
Do you believe that no word from God ever fails?
Do you believe that? Really?
You see, the Messiah had been promised for thousands of years.
All kinds of prophecy about a Savior coming, going all the way back to Genesis 3:15 where it talks about the seed of the woman crushing the head of the serpent someday.
There are shadows throughout all of history in the Old Testament of the one who would bring deliverance and forgiveness and redemption and restoration and joy and peace and eternal life.
The difference between these people and most other people was…
They really believed it.
They held on to these prophecies.
They held on to these promises.
They held on to the word of God.
I’m guessing Zechariah had this prophecy memorized. It was written hundreds of years before his son, John, and Jesus would be born.
Look at Isaiah 40:1-5.
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
I’m just guessing Zechariah held on to that. I’m guessing that Simeon and Anna probably prayed through a prophecy Scripture like this a hundred times in their hundred years, as they anticipated the consolation of Jerusalem, the coming of the Messiah.
Look what it says in Isaiah 52:2-10. Kind of a lengthy prophecy, but follow along on the screens.
Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned, O Jerusalem. Free yourself from the chains on your neck, O captive Daughter of Zion. For this is what the Lord says: “You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed.”
Isn’t that cool? Without money, you’re going to be redeemed.
For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “At first my people went down to Egypt to live; lately, Assyria has oppressed them. And now what do I have here?” declares the Lord. “For my people have been taken away for nothing, and those who rule them mock,” declares the Lord.
“And all day long my name is constantly blasphemed. Therefore my people will know my name; therefore in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I.”
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. I’m thinking shepherds there.
When the Lord returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes. Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.
You see, these words were written hundreds of years before Zechariah burst into song.
They were written centuries before Simeon and Anna held that baby boy Jesus up for all the people to see, proclaiming, “The one that we’ve been waiting for, the one who is going to redeem all people — he’s here.”
It would have been easy to lose hope in the silence of those years.
But they knew that no word of God ever fails, so they lived their lives with a sense of anticipation, waiting for the Lord to move, expecting the Lord to move, trusting that he was someday going to do exactly what he always said he was going to do.
I read an article in the news. It was talking about the frustration of people looking for parking spots in crowded shopping malls. One guy had to wait 15 minutes to find a parking spot.
Have you tried parking in the outlet mall recently? That has to be the worst design in the history of shopping mall parking lots.
I hate waiting in that parking lot.
We just hate to wait, don’t we?
Well… ‘waiting’ in Scripture is an active term.
It’s a patient thing, but it’s not a passive thing.
It’s not a ‘lie down, take a nap, and if God wants it to happen, it’ll happen’ thing.
Rather, it’s moving through life with purpose and hope and anticipation.
According to God, to wait means to keep moving through life while you rest in the assurance that he is already at work in your life.
Instead of staying in bed every day just waiting on God, you get out of bed every morning with a sense of anticipation that God is going to move in and through your life today.
You live with the realization that it may not work out exactly how you thought it might, but that God happens to be much smarter than we are and he has a much better view from above.
His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. His ways are higher than our ways. We see through a glass dimly. God see it all clearly.
It means you move through life believing that he really does have your best interest at heart and that no word from God ever fails.
You live with the same attitude that Mary had.
You say, “I don’t understand it all, but my life is His.
Whatever he wants to do with me is fine. I trust him completely.
Therefore, I will move through this day with a sense of joyful anticipation.
I’m going to do my job.
I’m going to love my family.
I’m going to encourage my friends.
I’m going to serve my world today…
All the while resting in his wisdom, expecting him to move in and through me and being sensitive to his voice of leadership as he gives it to me through this day, moment by moment.”
That’s what it means to wait on the Lord. That’s what it means to live with a sense of anticipation every day.
Listen to what the Word of God says about waiting with a sense of anticipation.
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.
I love how the New Living Translation puts this:
I am counting on the Lord; yes, I am counting on him. I have put my hope in his word.
David, who like Simeon, lived with a sense of anticipation wrote in Psalm 27:13-14:
I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
Isaiah writes this in Isaiah 30:18:
Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!
He’s saying God takes time to do everything right. Those who anticipate that, they’ll be really blessed in their lives.
Again, Isaiah, in one of the most famous passages of the Bible, Isaiah 40:31:
But those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
He’s saying if you anticipate strength from God, you’ll find it. If you don’t, you won’t.
You say to God, “I know you’re going to give me strength to face this situation. I’m not going to try to manufacture it on my own. I will wait on your perfect strength to flood my heart at the perfect time. You said it would, and I believe you, God.”
In Psalm 37:3, David writes:
Trust in the Lord and do good.
I love that little phrase. He’s saying that sometimes you do have to wait for God to do some things that he thinks he’s going to do in your life.
Just trust in him and keep on doing the right thing. Just keep on moving ahead. God will honor you for that.
In Psalm 37, David goes on to say that if you do that, you’ll live safely in the land and you’ll prosper.
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do it.
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. (Psalm 37:4-5, 7)
One more. Psalm 40:1-3:
I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.
Now, unlike people of the Old Testament and unlike the people in Luke 1 and 2, we’re not waiting for the Promised One, the Messiah, the Savior, the Christ.
He’s already come and he’s brought us life.
But we do live with a sense of anticipation that he’s coming back someday. We live with a sense of anticipation of a new day when all things will be put right again, when Paradise Lost will become Paradise Restored.
Paul says in Romans 8:23
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.
I’m anticipating that. I know a lot of you are anticipating that new body.
The writer of Hebrews says in chapter 9, verse 28:
Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many;
He’s already taken care of that.
and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:28)
Those who are waiting with eager anticipation.
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
You see, he’s coming back. And the writers of Scripture make it clear that we ought to live with a sense of anticipation that one day very soon — it might be today — all things will be made right.
No more poverty.
No more war.
No more racism.
No more pornography.
No more cancer.
No more dementia.
No more crime.
No more abuse.
No more evil.
No more darkness.
John writes in Revelation 22:5:
There will be no more need for candles, lamps, light bulbs, street lights, cam lights, track lights, spotlights, flood lights, Christmas lights, or even the sun, because the Lord God will be our light.
There will be no more darkness. What a day that’s going to be.
And that’s why we live with a sense of anticipation.
But until that day comes, just like Zechariah and Elizabeth and John and Mary and Simeon and Anna, live with hope every day — trusting God, holding on to his unbreakable Word, eagerly anticipating what God just might be up to in your life today and allowing him to use you this day to be Jesus to people until he comes back again.
Well, there are only 17 days until Christmas. Can you feel it? He’s coming. He’s coming.
Let’s celebrate like he has come. And let’s live like he will come again.
Alright, let’s close in prayer.
Alright now take a moment and fill out your next step card and place it in the offering basket when it goes by in a few moments.
While you’re filling out your next step card, I want to take a moment to thank those of you who have responded to our year-end giving email a couple weeks ago. Your generosity is helping us advance the kingdom of God in this community.
For those of you who are still deciding about year-end giving, we’d like you to know about three funds you can give to at Blue Oaks.
Every|One Building Fund
Through our Compassion fund we want to be a visible demonstration of Christ’s love to the Tri-Valley, attracting those who can’t believe a church can make such a difference. We want our partner organizations to be dumbfounded by our irrational generosity. Currently, we are driving almost $500,000 in investment into our partner organizations.
The Every|One building fund was launched 3 years ago for the purpose of creating a permanent church home.
A church is more than a building but a building becomes key as a gathering place on Sunday mornings and throughout the week.
As most of you know, we were able to purchase a building in September and are now actively pursuing renovation plans to convert the office building into a church.
We need approximately $2.5 Million to complete the renovation.
And the general fund is used to pay for everything from salaries to renting space at Foothill High School. The general fund supports all the things we do throughout the week that focus on the Next Generation, as well as our Sunday services.
I just want to ask that you prayerfully consider supporting Blue Oaks in your year-end giving.
And last thing I want to mention is the Christmas invites. Please take as many as you need. We have extras on the tables in the foyer as you’re leaving.
I hope you’re still praying the “God, use me” prayer. If you are, He will open the door in conversations… and this time of year is easiest time to invite someone. Ask if they have plans for Christmas Eve, and if they don’t, extend an invitation to Blue Oaks.
Alright, now the ushers are going to come forward to receive the next step cards and offering while the band leads us in a closing song.
Luke 1: 76-79