This might be a good word to describe advent and the stories that lead us to Jesus’ birth. God is calling out to people in Luke’s first few stories, hoping they respond, getting people ready to see Jesus for the first time. As he speaks, we can almost hear them saying…Hello?
Do you hear what I hear?
We stole the title of this old Christmas song for the title of our advent series.
(Check out our recaps for what we’ve already said about the song.)
This song is most definitely a song about peace, and the longing for it.
If you take a closer look, you will see a beautiful step by step theme to this song. Every verse asks a question, and in every verse we’re given a response:
Do you see what I see? A STAR
Do you hear what I hear? A SONG
Do you know? A BABY
Will you Listen? THE CHILD
Slowly, but surely, the writer guides us, like a good advent tour guide, to Jesus, the child, who you should know, and listen to, as he is the Prince of this Peace – and peace is so coveted by the world.
– – – – – – –
Do you hear…what…who…I hear?
Whoever has access to your ear, has access to your life.
First HELLO? Zechariah…
Second HELLO? Mary…
Mary and Zechariah’s stories are lead ups to Jesus birth. The Shepherds come shortly after the birth.
Common Theme? God speaks to them. They respond. The story begins…and then continues because of them.
Will we turn down the noise, and turn up the volume…to hear the voice of Jesus in our lives?
Let’s read what happens…Luke 2…
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. (1-7)
A few things here:
– Rome is in power
– Caesar wanted to be worshiped like a god
– Census happened every 14 years, and it accomplished 2 things: made sure people paid the right amount of tax, made sure men were enrolled into the army.
– It did something else…it brought Mary & Joseph to Bethlehem.
– God used a census…perfectly timed…to fulfill prophecy
Every part of this story is important. Every part of your story is important too. Never forget that.
– – – – – –
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (8-20)
In this story we find…
The most ordinary of people…
Shepherds were considered ordinary, marginalized, forgotten…
– Men were chosen to be a shepherd because they didn’t have anything else to do (no inheritance, no real skills, no chance of marriage)
– The most down to earth you could get
Yet, they are the ones who hear the angelic announcement – they are the ones who see Jesus first.
Think about this connection…
– David was a shepherd, turned into a King
– These shepherds are chosen as an integral part of the Jesus story
– Jesus is eventually called…the Great Shepherd…
– It’s like we turned ‘caretaker’ into a word for a King…it’s beautiful…it’s transformative…it’s God’s way of doing things – using the most unlikely of people to make a difference in the world.
The most amazing of messages…
To the most ordinary of people, God gives the most powerful of messages…
– Don’t be afraid
– This is Good News
– It’s Great Joy
– It’s for everyone
Isn’t it like that most of times? We find a transforming thought in the most unexpected of places…children, students, the poor, the lower level, etc. Again, this is how God works; the least of these will share the greatest of messages – the gospel.
The most simplest of signs…
The Shepherds were given two clues to find Jesus: A baby wrapped in cloths, and a manger.
Simple signs that become significant in the story.
And isn’t that how most things happen in our lives? We never know how important something is until it plays out. We only see the significance of a sign or a clue or an interruption, after the fact. Then we can be thankful that it occurred.
People get caught up in the manger…small… stuffy…smelly…full of…animals 😉
But the point of the manger is that it leads the shepherds to Jesus…
Our family invited a dog into our home two years ago. I never wanted one, but alas, Rocky has become part of our family. I’ve learned a number of things about dogs these past two years, one is this: when you point to something for the dog to look at or fetch, they don’t look at where you’re pointing, they look at your finger. They get enthralled with your finger and have no clue what you’re actually pointing to.
We do the same with signs…we get caught up with the signs…but they are important only because of where the signs lead.
May we stop looking at the crib and look at the baby. May we stop focusing on the manger, and instead see where it’s pointing…to Jesus
The most appropriate of responses…
Through out this advent season we’ve been encouraging you to listen for God’s voice in our life. To make his, the most important voice you tune into. To lower the noise around you and set your dial to what God is saying.
The question is, once you hear what he says, how will you respond?
The Shepherds show us the way.
They hurry to find Jesus
They tell everyone they can about Jesus
They worship Jesus
How will you respond to God’s voice in your life?
Are you paying attention?
Are you listening?
How are you planning to respond to what he’s saying?
– – – – – – – –
May we be like the shepherds, who, while doing the most ordinary of things, were able to hear God’s voice in their lives. They followed the signs that led them to the Saviour. They were so blown away with it all that they couldn’t keep it to themselves and instead told everyone they could. And when it was over, they worshiped; they thanked God for speaking to them, for leading them, for entrusting them with this news, and for changing their own hearts and lives in the process.
I found myself in a Starbucks on Friday night…working…waiting (for my kids)…wanting to hear some of Lauren Daigle’s new Xmas album (she’s good). One problem, I didn’t have ear buds with me. Instead, I had to listen through my iphone’s small speaker. Not good quality at all, as I’m missing all the good and important parts of the music that support Lauren’s beautiful voice. And to top it off, I’m competing with café noise, store music, and a bit of café chatter.
This would’ve been a good time to have a great set of earphones or headphones.
If you crack open a Christmas flyer, you will be sure to find a section on music listening devices…things like as bluetooth speakers, headphones & ear buds are very popular items this time of year. It’s a huge market. In 2017, the bluetooth speaker market alone was 3.4 billion. This is expected to reach 8.5 billion by 2023.
Back to headphones; when buying one of these said headphones…what is the most popular feature? Noise Cancelling! The goal of these headphones and any kind of speaker, is to help you, the listener, only hear and focus on…the music…the podcast…the voice!
– – – – –
Last week we talked about the Christmas song, ‘Do you hear what I hear?’. Written by Noel Regnay and Gloria Shayne, in 1962, during Cuban Missile Crisis, it’s a song about the fear of war and the longing for peace.
“I am amazed that people can think they know this song and not know it is a prayer for peace” (Noel Regnay)
The second verse gets to the heart of the title of this song…
Said the little lamb to the Sheppard boy
Do you hear what I hear
Ringing through the sky Sheppard boy
Do you hear what I hear
A song, a song
High above the trees
With a voice as big as the sea
With a voice as big as the sea
Listen, the writer says, for a voice, a voice as big as the sea. I really believe he’s contrasting the fears of citizens hearing bombs fly through the sky, to the one who truly has a voice that big – GOD.
We choose who’s voice gets a hearing in our lives. We know there’s competition, but in the end, we choose what goes in. We choose who & what we listen to.
Whoever has access to your ear, has access to your life.
Just like we choose what fills our calendar and our schedules…we choose what fills our ears… our minds…our hearts.
So…will we turn down the noise, and turn up the volume…to hear the voice of Jesus in our lives?
Last week we looked at Zechariah…
This week we turn to Mary…
Advent is a great time for Christians to reflect on the witness of Mary. I’m so grateful for her because she holds the contemplative and justice traditions together…She deeply ponders and daringly prophesies.
We get our first introduction to her in Luke 1:26-38
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.(OT meaning)(a big deal for Israel) The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! 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 favour with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. (= Yeshua = yasa = saves/rescues) 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 on 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 am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
– – – – – – –
This of course is a pre-birth narrative – because babies aren’t just born, something has to happen before birth. And this was an important birth. Larry King was asked who’d he’d interview if he could only choose one person behind the desk with him. He said, Jesus. Because if Jesus could prove he was born from a virgin, that would change everything. He was. It did.
What can we take from this message to Mary?
God initiates conversation (v.26)
God sends an angel…God starts this!
If God wants to talk to you, he will talk to you. That’s the way it works.
(download this exchange between Seinfeld and Stephen Cobert hello?)
God calling us and us responding with an ‘hello’ is a grand theme in scripture: God initiates! How amazing is that? God’s a conversation starter!
God chooses…and it’s not always (or often) who we think it is. (v.27)
Mary has a few things going against her in the “I’m going to make a difference category”
- She’s from a very small town (what good can come from Nazareth)
- think about a town or city that you don’t like, maybe it’s your home town, and the best thing about it was leaving…that’s what people said about Nazareth
- She’s a woman (in the first century)
- She’s young (in any century)
- She has ‘no status’ (in the first century)
Yet, what do we hear the angel say, “you are favoured.” Does the favour come before the choosing or the other way around? I’d say it works like this, God chooses you, therefore you’re favoured.
Conversations with God go both ways (v.29)
Mary was perplexed and confused.
This story reminds us that we are allowed to wonder…it’s ok to ask a follow-up question…God can handle it.
God is powerful, strong, intentional, and risky…(v.35)
God overshadowed Mary. What a beautiful and mysterious description of what happened. Overshadowing is normally a negative thing…right? Someone taking the credit from you. But think of it as being wonderfully and beautifully overwhelmed by God. Someone described it as a BIG tree that overshadows you, covers you, protects you, envelops you. Mary recognizes at that moment, that God is so much bigger than her – that her story gets enveloped in God’s story.
If God asks something of you, he will come through.
“Nothing is impossible” (the angel says)
“The word of god will never fail”
Often, we’re afraid of what God might want to say, or ask of us, because the task or the outcome seems too daunting, too scary, impossible to succeed. You’re right, it is. But there’s one big difference – with God, nothing is impossible!
Press “1” for yes… “2” for no… “3” for French… “4” to hear this message again.
Mary’s presses “1” with an emphatic YES.
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”
Everything that happens in this story…and everything that follows in this gospel, happens because…God speaks…and Mary listens!
Are we hearing what she heard?
Are we hearing what God wants to tell us today?
Think about the ripple effects of your YES’s to God’s voice and message in your life.
Remember this, when God speaks to us, two things happen: Either He’s working in us. Or. He’s works through us!
Are you willing to listen to God’s voice? Worthy or Unworthy? If you think you deserve to hear him or not?
- Mary was a young, female, virgin, from Nazareth
- Nothing about her, in that context, would say that she should be used for great things
Will you push through the noise and clutter, to hear what God has to say?
- What might be in the way of you hearing God’s voice? (I’m not ‘able’ to hear this message)
- What’s competing with God’s voice in our lives?
Will you say YES? Press “1”? Even in the midst of the confusion and questions, will you trust God enough to say yes, allow him to overshadow you, allow him to use you? Allow him, dare I say, to use you to share Jesus with the world?
That’s what Mary did.
What’s your part in this story?
“Whoever has access to your ear, has access to your life.”
Free ice skating will be happening for the whole family on Sunday, December 30th from 10:30 am – 12 pm at McKinney Arena, Whitby. (222 McKinney Dr.)
Each week we will be providing “Take Homes” for you to use to continue the discussion at home with your kids.
An administrative reminder that we are redoing/updating our registration at The Park. Thanks to those of you who stopped by the registration table last week to fill out family registration forms! If you have not done so yet, please grab a registration form this week to fill out. All families (new and old) will need to complete this registration. Get your Family Registration Form here!
JK/SK Take Homes:
Christmas Week 1 – Parent Take Home
Christmas Week 2 – Parent Take Home
Christmas Week 3 – Parent Take Home
Christmas Week 4 – Parent Take Home
Grades 1-5 Take Homes:
Kingdom Week 1 – Parent Take Home
Kingdom Week 2 – Parent Take Home
Kingdom Week 3 – Parent Take Home
Kingdom Week 4 – Parent Take Home
I love the Christmas song, “Do you hear what I hear?”
Some people can only think of the late Bing Crosby when they hear this tune.
This song was written by Noel Regney & Gloria Shayne, (who also wrote…Rain, Rain, go away…go figure). in 1962, during the Cuban missile crisis. The song was actually a powerful plea for peace by a man who had experienced the horrors of war. Peace was in high demand then, as it is now.
A little bit about Noel Regney
- French born, but drafted into the German army
- Hated the Nazis who occupied his land
- While fighting for Germany he became a part of the French underground (SPY). Led the Germans’s into a trap with the French, but still felt guilty about it, as he was well aware of human tragedy in that moment.
- After escaping and living underground until the war was over, he became a musical director on the Radio and in Clubs.
- Moved to Manhattan in 1952.
- Met and Married Gloria.
- They wrote music together. She lyrics, he music, except for this song.
Noel said about this song, “I am amazed that people can think they know this song and not know it is a prayer for peace”
Who would’ve known all this about a Christmas Carol?
DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR? Was Noel & Gloria’s plea. They want to know if their listeners, were as concerned as they were. Are we as passionate as they were for peace?
We want to ask the same question this advent season. DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR?
Are you attentive to what is going on around you? Are you attentive to God’s voice in the midst of it?
Are you aware of the brokenness? Are you aware of God’s presence in the midst of it?
Are you listening to what God is saying, in, and into, the real matters of this world?
Do you HEAR HIS voice…today?
I can imagine characters in the Biblical Narrative, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc, saying…Did you Hear that? Did you catch what God just did? Did you catch what Jesus just said? (NT)
Did you hear what I heard?
Over the next 3 weeks we’re going to walk through Luke 1.
We want to hear what they heard.
We want to see what they saw.
And we want to discover how we can hear God’s voice, just as clearly as they did.
Why? Because if we’re not careful, our ears will be filled with noise that doesn’t help us at all.
“Who ever has access to your ear, has access to your life.”
The question is: will you turn down the noise, and turn up the volume?
For this, we look at 3 characters that ‘heard from God’.
I want to learn what they heard, and I want to hear what God is saying to me today?
First up? ZECHARIAH!
Luke is a story teller who sets up the story well.
Know that we’ll eventually get to Jesus, but first, the preliminaries.
Let’s read through this story and see what we learn…what we HEAR!
5 When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. 6 Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. 7 They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.
Zechariah was a priest & Elizabeth was from a priestly family. Both lived according to the law and lived good lives (righteous). We learn here that Elizabeth could not have children…and that they are both…older.
8 One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week.
Twice a year a priest would come to Jerusalem for his turn to serve. They’d live and serve as priests where they were, but came to the temple twice a year. (not company training days:)
9 As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense.
Now…this didn’t happen to every priest. It was a once in a lift time opportunity. They were chosen by lot; kind of like drawing straws. Who ever got the ‘unique’ piece from what they chose, was chosen to go into the inner sanctuary.
The chances were slim to have this opportunity. Like my chances of winning anything…very slim (anyone else with me?).
While inside, his duty was to burn incense.
10 While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying.
This caused a bit of drama. People waiting for Zechariah to complete his duty. They were praying…worshiping…waiting. Such an advent thing to do…wait & pray
11 While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. 12 Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him.
Zechariah wouldn’t have been expecting this. Maybe he thought that this is what happens on the ‘inside’. But he definitely wouldn’t expect it.
What’s a normal response to an angel sneaking up on you? Fear & trembling! Freaking out a little.
Then comes the words…the message!
13 But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. 14 You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. 16 And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. 17 He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.”
This is amazing. Zechariah & Elizabeth have been praying for years. And God tells them they will have a son. Not just any son, but John the Baptist. Your son will prepare the way for others to receive Jesus; to receive God into their lives. He will get others ready for God’s ARRIVAL!
Can’t imagine what that responsibility felt like, we can hardly get ready to receive company, making sure things are in order for people to arrive. John was getting Israel, the world, us, ready to receive Jesus.
This is the first of Luke’s layers that lead us to Jesus.
GOD. Through an angel. Speaks to Zechariah.
Zechariah. Listens to this message from God.
Think about this for a second. The message is of course amazing and life changing. For him, for Israel, and for the world.
But the shear fact that it’s GOD speaking to him. WOW.
18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” 19 Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! 20 But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.”
Can’t spend too much time here, but Zechariah gets snubbed. His mouth is shut. Doubt creeps in.
Who do you know that you wish this would happen to? (HA)
What would we learn if you couldn’t speak? If you could only listen?
21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah to come out of the sanctuary, wondering why he was taking so long. 22 When he finally did come out, he couldn’t speak to them. Then they realized from his gestures and his silence that he must have seen a vision in the sanctuary. 23 When Zechariah’s week of service in the Temple was over, he returned home. 24 Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months.25 “How kind the Lord is!” she exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.”
What an Amazing way for Luke to start his gospel. If you know a bit of the OT, you’ll recognize a theme here…older married couples having children…more importantly, miracles of birth and new life, when all hope was essentially given up.
– – – – – – –
So many things to take away from this first episode in Luke’s gospel; let’s focus on a few.
Are you willing to listen to God’s voice? When you’re ready or not?
– Zechariah may have been a priest, but this was not something he saw coming.
– In your everyday life, routine, rhythm, if God speaks, will you actually hear what he has to say?
Will you push through the noise and clutter, to hear what God has to say?
– What might be in the way of you hearing God’s voice?
– Is it noise? It is you? Does there have to be an adjustment of sorts? Noise down, Volume up?
Will you take or make time to be attentive?
– I find advent to be a great opportunity to centre ourselves. Reading/Prayer/Worship.
– From now until Christmas…what is your plan? (we have a reading guide, check it out)
Everything we hear from God either works toward preparing our hearts for him, or is a tool to use us to prepare other people to receive him.
God speaks to us…to work in us…or to work through us.
Remember this: “Who ever has access to your ear, has access to your life.”