Christ Covenant Church
Rev. Marq Toombs
3 June 2018
Second Sunday after Pentecost / Ordinary Time

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Sermon: Luke 1 (selected)

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah. He and his wife Elizabeth had no child, because she was barren, and both were advanced in years.

Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

And the angel Gabriel came to a virgin named Mary and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” … And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end … The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son…and all who heard these things laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him…And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

The word of the Lord.

[Sketch Notes] 

Intro / AIM experience / Luke chapter locations

Reason for writing = that you may know the true truth of your catechesis

Theophilus = lover of God

A theology of children from before the womb to after the tomb.

Stories about women who could not bear children. One was infertile in her youth, then just too old to bear children. The other was too young in one sense because she was not yet married.

Stories about children not yet conceived or born. Today we will focus on John. Next week we will focus on Jesus.

Before conception 

God knew them.

He knew who they would be and what they would do.

God called John to be a priest and a prophet.

John was going to be a priest. Since his daddy was a priest, and he was born into a family of priests, he was going to be a priest. A priest was a minister. He spent his life serving God and the people. He made sacrifices, prayed, and taught God’s word for God’s people. We’ll talk about that some more in two weeks.

John was also going to be a Nazirite, which means he was set apart for God’s purposes all the days of his life. He was not allowed to drink wine or beer or even grape juice. He was not allowed to eat grapes or raisins.

He was not allowed to get a hair cut, so the locks of hair of his head grew long. Can you imagine? By the time he was full grown man he was probably really hairy!

He was not allowed to go to funerals — not even for his mommy and daddy. All the days of his life he was set apart as holy to the Lord.

John was also going to be a prophet. A prophet was a preacher with a special message and mission from God. He was going to call people to repent, to change their life, to turn back to God. He was going to call to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” We’ll talk about that some more in two weeks.

John didn’t choose that life for himself. God chose it for him. And John conformed to it.

It might seem like God was doing a new thing with John. But God was just doing with John what he had done with many other people.

Here are a few examples from the OT scriptures —

Excursus

Before Isaac was conceived and born, God told his parents Abraham and Sarah that “a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” (Gen. 15) Isaac was born about 15 years later.

Later on, Isaac and Rebekah had children. Twins. When their sons Jacob and Esau were in still their mommy’s tummy, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad, she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” (Rom. 9)

King David said in Psalm 139,

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

God knows the end of our story from the beginning. As we live the pages of our story unfold. We do not know what will come, but know the one who wrote the story. We can trust the Author of our story to do what is right and good.

God called Jeremiah to be a prophet, but Jeremiah resisted and made excuses — I’m too young, inexperienced, unskilled. But God told him

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

Why did God call and choose all these little children before they were even born? Answer: In order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by man’s works at all, but by God’s grace alone. (Romans 9)

God is sovereign over all things, including your life and mine.

After conception,

while the babies were still forming in their mommy’s tummy, the Holy Spirit was with them.

When Jesus was still in Mary’s tummy, she went down to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was expecting John. She had been carrying John for six months.

Now Jesus was only a teeny-tiny little baby in Mary’s tummy — not much more than zygote. His body was still unformed. He was still being knit and woven together in his mother’s womb. But when Mary greeted Elizabeth, the baby John leaped for joy in her womb.

Why? Because Christ the Lord had drew near (in Mary’s womb).

This story shows us that human life begins at the moment of conception. It also shows us that the moment of conception was the moment of the incarnation – God became man in Mary’s womb (not at his birth).

God didn’t come into the world as a full grown man, but as a tiny little zygote. More on that another time, I just want you to know that Jesus was once a fetus – just like you were. He passed through all the same phases of life that you and I are passing through.

Today’s sermon is to kids, for kids, and about kids. So I want to say something very important to you kids.

Sometimes you will hear people say things like “babies cannot believe, babies cannot understand, babies cannot worship.” (Even when I have pointed out some of the scriptures and stories mentioned in this sermon some people just wave it off as exceptions to the rule.)

But God’s word says covenant babies and children can (and do!) worship, trust, obey, and much more. They even wage spiritual warfare when they sing, praise God, lift their hands in the doxology, and make other joyful noises in the church. This the rule, not the exception.

The psalmist said,

O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have ordained praise because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger. (Psalm 8:1-3)

Covenant babies and children wage spiritual warfare when they sing, praise God, lift their hands in the doxology.

Another psalmist said,

From birth I have relied on you;
you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.
I will ever praise you. (Psalm 22)

And another psalmist said,

For you, O Lord, are my hope,
    my trust, O Lord, from my youth.
Upon you I have leaned from before my birth;
    you are he who took me from my mother’s womb.
My praise is continually of you. (Psalm 71:5-6)

All these stories show us that God cares about little babies and little children from mommy’s tummy to eternity.

The same is true of you and your story.

Present connections

Today’s sermon is to kids, for kids, and about kids. So I want to all you kids to listen.

God knew you before you were born. He knew you before your parents knew each other. He knew when you would be born. Which parents would raise you. Who you would be. And what you would do.

He has all kinds of plans for you.

God promises to write his word on your heart and mind. He promises to be your God and make you his people. He promises to show you mercy and forget your sins.

He has a purpose for your life.

God wants you to worship Jesus. And he wants to help you become like Jesus. And he wants you to tell other people about Jesus. Starting right now, even while you are little children. Not just later on when you are big people.

God wants you to know that he loves you from tummy to eternity.

Now, as you can see, I’m no John the Baptist, but during my ministry among you I have tried to call for the same kind of change he did. To turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents. Why? To prepare us for the Lord; to make sure we are ready for his appearing.

That’s one reason why I have encouraged you parents to bring your children up in the Lord. To teach them God’s word. To pray for them. To give them to God in baptism. To lead them to worship and serve the Lord.

And that’s one reason I have encouraged you children to love God with all your heart. To obey your parents. To trust Jesus no matter what.

Jesus loves you this you know — for the Bible tells you so. And so does your pastor. And so do your parents. And so does the Holy Spirit.

Jesus shows us that we must turn and become like children, or else we will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18). 

So, little children, you are not called to be like us — we are called to be like you.

One last thing: In my experience as a pastor, I have seen and heard people hide behind their little children and make excuses for all sorts of things. That’s what the Israelites did in the wilderness.

In the scripture reading before the sermon we heard how mommies and daddies made excuses for their disobedience to God because they were afraid that trusting and obeying God would put their little children at risk. God judged the parents, but spared their little children and eventually led them into the promise land.

Pastoral Prayer