Do You Understand What You See?

This evening will be a little different. We will have more singing. We will have more Scripture readings than usual. Each reading will come from the first two chapters in the book of Luke. I will share with you some thoughts from each reading. My objective will be to challenge you to think.

Our first reading is from Luke 1:5-17.
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years. Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering. And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."


  1. There are not many physical things in life that I desire.
    1. About a month ago, my middle son asked me what I wanted for Christmas.
      1. I tried to convince him, without any success, that I neither wanted or needed anything physical.
      2. I know I merely increased the difficulty of his selecting and giving me a gift, and I felt badly about that.
      3. However, if he asked me right now, I still want nothing physical.
    2. However, there are some things I know I do not want.
      1. I am 65 years old.
      2. If the Lord God announced to me that Joyce and I were going to have a child, that would not be a joyous revelation--to me or to Joyce!
      3. Zacharias and Elizabeth were old--it does not say how old they were, but they knew all hope of having children was gone.
        1. When the angel appeared to Zacharias as he offered incense to God, I get the distinct impression that this was a first time experience for him.
        2. The situation scared him--and scared him badly!
      4. The angel declared several things to Zacharias:
        1. "You and your wife will have a son."
        2. "You will name him John."
        3. "When he is born you will have joy and gladness."
        4. "He will be great in God's sight."
        5. "He will be a Nazarite and filled with the Holy Spirit from birth."
        6. "He will be a restoration influence in Israel--many sons of Israel will turn back to God because of him."
        7. "He will also be the forerunner of someone God will send, and he will do this in Elijah's spirit and power."
        8. "He will prepare a people for the Lord."

  2. I wonder if Zacharias had any in depth understanding of what God was planning to do through his son.
    1. I have little doubt that Zacharias was happy to hear that a son would continue his lineage even after Zacharias was dead.
    2. But what was this business of:
      1. That son beginning a restoration movement in Israel?
      2. That son functioning as Elijah?
      3. That son being a forerunner?

    I seriously doubt that Zacharias had any real idea of what God would do through this son!

    Reading: Luke 2:8-20
    In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased." When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, "Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us." So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.


  3. This is likely one of the more familiar events that occurred the night Jesus was born.
    1. Some shepherds were in a field watching their sheep at night.
      1. This may be a clue as to the time of year these events occurred.
      2. From the little indication given, it was a typical, uneventful evening.
    2. The uneventful evening suddenly, shockingly became quite eventful.
      1. God's angel suddenly stood before them, and the glory of God shone around them.
      2. Just as we would be, they were terrified.
    3. The angel said several things to them:
      1. "Do not be afraid."
      2. "In the city that David came from, God has sent your Savior, Christ the Lord."
      3. "This will be your confirming sign: You will find a wrapped baby lying in a manger" (that is not where you would expect to find a new born).
    4. Suddenly there appeared a heavenly host.
      1. They praised God for keeping His promise.
      2. They declared a special form of peace was coming to this world.
    5. The curious shepherds went to find the baby.
      1. They found the family.
      2. They told everyone what happened to them.
      3. The events astounded many, and Mary held these things in her heart.
      4. The shepherds returned to their sheep, glorifying and praising God for what they heard and saw.

    As happy and excited as they were, I wonder if they had any idea of what they had just seen.

    Reading: Luke 2:22-38
    And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord"), and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, "A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons." And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, "Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation, Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, A Light of revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel." And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, "Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed-- and a sword will pierce even your own soul--to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed." And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.


  4. In Jewish society, there were (are in the Jewish orthodox communities) some laws that they had followed for centuries.
    1. Laws surrounding birth were one such group of laws.
      1. Leviticus 12 said:
        1. After the birth of a son, the mother was to be considered "unclean" for seven days--just as she was after her menstrual flow.
        2. On the eighth day after birth, the new son was to be circumcised.
        3. Exodus 13:2, 11,12 states that every first born male belonged to the Lord and must be redeemed.
        4. Leviticus 12 further said that a woman was to be considered ceremonially impure for an additional 33 days after the birth of a male child, and then she was to be purified by giving a sacrifice.
        5. It is my understanding that is what occurred in Luke 2:22-24.
      2. In 40 days when Jesus was taken to Jerusalem for presentation and redemption, he is met by two people who understand his significance.
        1. The first is a man named Simeon who is described as a righteous and devout man.
        2. Some unusual statements are made regarding this man:
          1. The Holy Spirit was on him.
          2. He was looking "for the consolation of Israel"--he understood that Israel was God's vehicle to a divine goal, not God's end goal.
          3. He took Jesus in his arms, blessed God, and said in essence, "I am ready to die now because I have seen God's salvation."
          4. He made an incredible, unthinkable statement for a first century Israelite--the salvation coming through Jesus is for all peoples, is to serve as a light to the gentiles, and is to serve as the glory of Israelites.
          5. The parents were astounded, and Simeon said to them the child will result in the rise and fall of many in Israel and will reveal the thoughts of many.
        3. The second person is a woman named Anna.
          1. She is elderly and has been a widow for many years.
          2. She constantly stayed in the temple area night and day fasting and praying.
          3. As soon as she saw Jesus, she thanked God.
          4. Incredibly, she began to speak about Jesus to all who were looking for the redemption of Israel.

When you look at Jesus in your life, do you understand what you see?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 25 December 2005

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