Listening to God this Christmas

Hearing from God is never easy. David gives some examples of those who heard his voice.


Morning.  My name is David Sorn.  I’m the pastor of Renovation Church.  
Well, we are now four days away from Christmas Eve, and five from Christmas.  
Are you excited?  
I am.  Excited to get some good presents.  
Although nothing is going to beat last year’s present:  
The Table Mate II (show picture)
I’m not just excited about the presents, but of course the family…
We’re spending Christmas Eve with my family in Cambridge
Lindsey’s family is coming up from Oklahoma
And I’m obviously excited about what this whole Christmas season is all about
Our first ever Christmas Eve service for Renovation Church is this Thursday at 3:30pm
Lots of things to be excited for…
Although the Christmas season strikes me as kind of ironic sometimes
The Christmas season kind of reminds me of high school proms
Idk if you remember or not, but there is a massive build-up to the high school prom
Kids are thinking about it months in advance
Who are you going ask?  
How are you going to ask them?
Where are you going to eat?
What are you doing after?  
Just how amazing is it going to be?  
But for most teenagers, by the time prom is actually over with, their reaction to it is:  “Meh, it was okay.”
But the build-up to it was amazing!
And I think the Christmas season is kind of like that for many of us
As soon as Thanksgiving hits, and we start listening to Christmas music, and start shopping, we are so excited for Christmas!
But by the time it actually hits (like the prom), and we get together with our families
Or by the time we’ve opened our presents and had our food and all that’s left to do is actually talk to each other…
Then, the rest of the Holiday season, is actually kind of hard for a lot of us.  
Sometimes it’s even a painful time.  
Because relationships… (whether it’s marriage, a relationship with your parents, your kids, your siblings) are hard work.  
And for many people.  Christmas is painful.
In fact, the most common time of the year for people to commit suicide are the couple of weeks after Christmas.  
And for many of us the pain doesn’t quite run that deep, but it’s not always the easiest time of the year…

But yet, in this sometimes dark time of year when the sun goes down in the middle of the afternoon and relationships get harder and harder to maintain through our frequent meetings with each other, it’s in this time of year that we remember when God broke through into humanity as a Baby
And he broke through first of all by speaking to his people.  
By letting them know He was coming
I want to look at a passage today from the Bible about two people who were having a rough go at life, and yet God spoke to them
This is connected to the Christmas story
Mary, the mother of Jesus, had a relative named Elizabeth who had a husband named Zechariah.  
Zechariah was a priest, and they were both incredibly faithful people to God
They had lived good lives, righteous lives, and yet, they had led painful lives
One of the most painful experiences for people to go through in Jesus’ time was to be barren.  To not have children.
It’s still a major issue for people today who are really trying to have children and can’t, but this issue is even more serious in Jesus’ day
Children were important not only because well they’re important, but because they helped share some of the workload, and they were an heir for building your family
And it could feel like quite a disgrace to not have children
People sadly treated it like God must be punishing those who couldn’t have kids
But yet, here are righteous and faithful Zechariah and Elizabeth who’ve done most everything right…and yet…no kids…and a lot of pain
Elizabeth who, like I said, is a relative or Mary (the mother of Jesus).  We are going to read her story (and her husband’s) and then also contrast it with the story of Jesus’ mother as well

Let’s read the passage about Zechariah and Elizabeth
(this takes place most likely a few months before Mary hears she is going to have Jesus)
(Luke 1:5-25) - NIV
5In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly. 7But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.  8Once when Zechariah's division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. 11Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13But 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 give him the name John. 14He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.[b] 16Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. 17And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."18Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years."
19The angel answered, "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. 20And 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 proper time."
21Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
23When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25"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."
So, God sends an Angel to deliver an amazing message to this faithful couple who are beyond child bearing age, and tells them they are going to have a son…and a special one at that…
And when Zechariah hears it…from an Angel…he questions it:  “How can I be sure of this?”
Which is fascinating right?
Let’s look at the next section in Luke (which the author kind of uses as a contrast on listening to God’s messages)
(Luke 26-38) - NIV
26In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. 28The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."  29Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32He 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, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."  34"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" 35The 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[c] the Son of God. 36Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37For nothing is impossible with God." 38"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.

So there you have it…back to back in the book of the Luke…two angel announcements (I mean talk about God getting a message across to humans) and TWO different responses…
Couple of observations here
Interesting to know the background of Mary’s cousin Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah…
Because this is a couple who’s gone through a lot
Do you know anyone who’s tried to have kids for a long time and been unsuccessful
That’s a trying time for people
But these people never had kids…God wasn’t answering…
And you know, I think when we go through pain in our lives…
Whether that’s a loss of someone, a loss of a job, a loss of a relationship…
It’s often in the most painful times that it can feel like God is silent
Do you know what I mean?
And maybe that’s just because we want Him to talk and talk NOW!
We feel like that NOW would be the appropriate time to talk, when it isn’t always the right thing to do
You ever been around someone when they are completely devastated about something?  Or at least incredibly angry about something…
Often that’s not the best time to say, “Here’s the direction I think you should go right now.”
People aren’t always thinking the most clearly at the time or willing to hear advice
But yet, we want God to do that to us…
But He doesn’t always work that way…sometimes He does…but often He doesn’t

But when he does speak, his timing is right
For instance, let me give you some more context on this story of Zechariah
When we read about Zechariah going into the temple, it can just seem like a normal thing…but it’s not
See, Zechariah is a priest
As a priest he only served at the temple for two one-week periods a year
And on top of that, he was one of thousands of priests.
And when his priestly group was there, they would cast lots to see who would go in and keep the incense burning on the alter in front of the Most Holy Place in order to keep the incense fresh for the morning and evening sacrifices
So, Zechariah was chosen out of thousands to go in
And on top of that, a priest could only officiate a sacrifice once in their life
So, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for Zechariah, and in that moment…on that same day that he was chosen for this once in a lifetime moment…an Angel appears to Him.  
God’s timing is very purposeful

But here’s the question…
When God is speaking to you...are you listening?  
And for most of us, God will never send us an angel, or show up in person like Pat pretended to do in the video, or even speak out loud (not saying that He can’t do those thing or won’t),
But for most of us, He can and does speak to your heart, or maybe just a thought in your mind, or maybe even through a friend…
And when He does…are you listening?
Will you believe it?  Will you obey? Will you follow?
Because to do so, isn’t easy
Because even for Zechariah, it wasn’t easy
I mean, for goodness sakes, an ANGEL shows up to Him…and he goes, “uh…how can I be sure”
Oh, I don’t know…an ANGEL IS SPEAKING TO YOU!
Which for the angel, is probably annoying…
I’m sure Gabriel was making thinking…really…you don’t even believe  
And yet, Zechariah isn’t sure whether to listen to God
And if it’s hard for him to listen with an angel in his face, you better believe it’s hard for us to listen when we think we hear something in our hearts.  
And yet, there are others examples like Mary and Joseph and plenty of others in the Bible, who just hear and obey…
But HOW?  
Well, first of all, this is the type of thing we could spend a month on
But let me say 2 things
First of all, we listen…always being ready to listen…
Let me give you an example
I have bad hearing…I have a form of high frequency hearing loss
And you know those hearing tests you took in Elementary school…
Show Picture of Hearing Test
I was the kid who sat there like… (not raising hand)
But every kid sits in those tests like this…(ears ready) ready to hear the faintest of sounds
And that is how you want to live your spiritual life…always ready to listen…
Well what does that mean??
It means being in tune with God…It’s talking to Him, connecting with him, being in church (hearing his word), conversing with other Christians talking about God, reading God’s Word (the Bible…turning up the volume knob)
One of our main problems is (especially during Christmas), we’re too busy to listen
Can you imagine taking one of those hearing tests in school while walking down a crowded hallway?  
But that’s how we try and listen for God…
Are you making a point this Christmas season to stop and listen for Him?  
We sometimes complain that He’s not talking, but perhaps the real problem is we won’t get away from all the noise so we can actually hear him
And secondly (the first point being that we have to stop and listen), secondly I would say this about listening and obeying God…It comes out of a lifetime of trust
Mary, who had to be a trusting person, listens and obeys because she can trust God
But how do you trust Him???
How do you trust anyone?
You take a risk, and you watch them come through, and trust develops
Let me give you an example from my own life…
When God was putting it on my heart to plant this church, there were a lot of things that made sense to me (I love to lead, speak, etc.), but there was one big problem (I’m not a risk taker)
So for me to leave my really nice job at a big church and start this church from scratch was a scary thing
Yet, God came through…in a major way…
And now my trust level with Him is that much stronger
So now when he speaks again, my ability to listen, and follow-through is that  much greater
So if listening to God comes from trust, and trust comes from obeying (and often in risky places), where do you need to take a risk with God right now?  
Is He talking to you?  Is He saying something in your heart?  In your mind?
Maybe it’s just simple…
Maybe he’s just telling you to check him out…to start talking to Him for the first time…or to start spending more time with Him…
What is He saying?  
Will you take the risk and follow?  Or will you stay the same?

And if this Christmas should end up being a little bit like prom to you
And its realities don’t match your expectations
Remember…God is still there…
He’s kind of why we do this “Christmas thing” in the first place
Don’t let Him get lost in the noise this year…or in the pain…
And connect with Him…and listen for Him…
And when He speaks…when the timing is right…follow Him.  Trust Him. For He is good
Let’s pray…I want to pray a little differently today…
You talk to God and ask him what he wants to say…

If you look under your chair right now, you should see a connection card and a pen.  Go ahead and pick those up.
One of the things we do every week at Renovation Church, is fill out these connection cards.
It’s a way for you to connect with us and for us to connect with you.  
We do want to remind you while you fill those out, we will be having a Christmas Eve service at 3:30pm this Thursday

We are going to take an offering now as well
This is something we do every week, as an “offering” back to God.  An offering that we give to God in a trusting manner
If you’re a visitor, feel free to let the offering cans just pass you by
As the offering goes by, you can stick your connection card in there as well
Let me just pray for the offering quick
Let’s pray.  

Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.