Saturday, December 22, 2012

Four Christmas Messages from Angels

This is a sermon outline developed by Dr. Terry Dorsett and preached at Faith Community Church, Barre, VT, during the 2012 Christmas season.

          Angels have always served as Gods messengers.
          We should never pray to angels, or worship them, because only God deserves that honor.
          Angels still exist and still serve as Gods messengers today.
          By looking at how angels impacted the Christmas story, we can see how they can impact our lives as well.

The Message to Zechariah
Luke 1:11-13 - An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and overcome with fear. But the angel said to him: Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John.

          Zechariah was a priest at the Temple and was offering incense at the altar when he saw an angel.
          Because of the large number of priests and limited number of times incense was offered, this was probably a once in a life time experience for Zechariah.
          There are moments in our lives that are so special, they will never happen again. We should learn to cherish those moments.
          Some supernatural experiences are once in a life time moments with God. We should not miss them because they cannot be recreated.
          Zechariah and his wife Elisabeth had not been able to have any children and now were getting old for it to happen naturally.
          As Zechariah prayed at the altar, he asked God to do a miracle and give him a son.
          Sometimes God puts a desire in our hearts that just will not go away. When that happens, we should keep on praying even if it seems impossible.
          An angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah while he was praying.
          Zechariah was startled and overcome with fear.
          It is ironic that Zechariah was praying for something important to him but when God answered, Zechariah was startled and afraid.
          But if we are honest, we would have to admit that the same thing often happens to us.
          Zechariah was so shocked that he did not believe the message the angel told him.

Luke 1:20-Now listen! You will become silent and unable to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time."

          When Zechariah refused to believe the message, there were negative consequences.
          He would be unable to talk until the baby was born. Fortunately, this was temporary and after the baby was born, he was able to talk again.

First Message of the Christmas Angel for us today:
When God speaks to us, we better listen; otherwise, there will be negative consequences.

The Message to Mary
Luke 1:26-29 - 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." But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be.

          Mary was Zechariahs wife Elisabeths cousin.
          In the 6th month of Elisabeths pregnancy, the same angel came to Mary and gave her the same message, she would have a son.
          The angel calls Mary highly favored.
          Some churches teach that Mary was sinless or had some other special spiritual quality that made her worthy to bear the Christ child.
          Nowhere in the Bible does it say that Mary was extraordinary, as a matter of fact the Bible is actually silent about the background and life of Mary.
          This is because the focus was to be on her son Jesus, not on herself.
          If any of the visitations of Mary that people claim to have are real, Marys first message to them would be to stop praying to her and worshipping her, because Jesus alone is worthy of worship.
          God chose an ordinary person to help accomplish His plan and He still does that today.

Luke 1:38 "I am the Lord's slave," said Mary. "May it be done to me according to your word." Then the angel left her.

          Marys response to the angel was that she was willing to submit to Gods plan for her life.
          She was very blessed in her life because of her willingness to obey Gods plan for her life.
          How often do we miss Gods blessing on our lives because we are unwilling to obey Gods plan for our lives?
          Contrast her response to Zechariahs, who refused to believe until after the fact
          Which are we more like, Mary or Zechariah?

Second Message of the Christmas Angel for us today:
God chose us to serve Him, just as He chose Mary, and we will be blessed beyond imagination if we will submit to Gods plan for our lives even when we do not fully understand it.

The Message to the Shepherds
Luke 2:8-11 - 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, "Don't be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David.

          Shepherds were poor and uneducated.
          However, most people in that day and time were poor and uneducated.
          Therefore, shepherds represent the average person of the day.
          God wants His message of love, hope, joy and peace to go to everyone, but it begins with average people just like us!
          The angel proclaimed good news to the shepherds and the same good news is proclaimed to us today.
          The good news is that we no longer have to endure lives of emptiness but we can have hope and purpose.
          The good news is that we no longer have to bear the guilt of our sins, or fear hell, for our sins can be forgiven.
          The good news is that this message is for all people.
          The good news is for US!
          What will OUR response be to this message of good news be?

Luke 2:15 - When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us."

          The shepherds may have been uneducated and poor, but they were smart enough to go check it out, accept what they found and rejoice!
          Are we smart enough to check out God and then accept what He says?

Third Message of the Christmas Angel for us today:
God sent His message of Good News to average people like us and though we may not understand all God is saying, we should be smart enough to check it out and accept it.

The Message to Joseph
Matthew 2:13-15 - After they were gone, an angel of the Lord suddenly 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 destroy Him. So he got up, took the child and His mother during the night, and escaped to Egypt. He stayed there until Herod's death.

          These verses happen sometime after the actual birth of Jesus, probably about two years later.
          Wise men from the East had come and gone.
          King Herod has been alerted that a new king had been born and he was afraid of the competition.
          Herod ordered the murder of all the baby boys two years old and younger in the area where Jesus had been born.
          That was an incredibly cruel act, but when people in power feel threatened, they often use their power in terrible ways.
          Regretfully, our lives are often filled with pain because the people around us feel threatened.
          An angel warned Joseph and told him to flee to Egypt.
          There was a large Jewish population in Alexandria, Egypt. Joseph would have been able to find work easily among the Jewish community there.
          As difficult as it was, Joseph took his family and moved to Egypt.
          Joseph did not return to Israel until after King Herod died. Even then he moved to Nazareth, instead of his home town.
          Those there were great challenges that Joseph had to overcome, imagine if he had not had Gods help in that time of trouble.
          The consequences for his family would have been far worse than just having to move a couple of times and settle in a different town than he may have wanted to.

Fourth Message of the Christmas Angel for us today:
Following God does not mean we will never face problems in life, but it does mean that God will help us in those times of troubles. Since trouble is going to come anyway, why not have Gods help when it happens?

God has given us Four Christmas Messages from Angels:
1.   When God speaks, listen! Otherwise we may face negative consequences.
2.   God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things if we submit to His plan.
3.   Though we may not understand all of Gods messages to us, we should be smart enough to check them out and accept them.
4.   God is with us even during times of great difficulty, so it is always worth listening to Him.