“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught”
This past Sunday was the first day of Advent. Advent is the New Years Day of the church calendar. The church calendar, a Christ formed calendar brought to you by the same people who gave you the Bible!! The church calendar is a creative way of subverting secularism by marking time according to the Christian story. The Hebrew people have been doing this for millennia, marking time according to the feasts, festivals and holy days according to their story of being delivered out of Egypt, the Exodus. We have our own story centered in Jesus Christ. We mark the year telling the story of Jesus Christ. The church year begins first Sunday of advent, so Happy New Year!!! We are no longer in “ordinary time”, but a special time. We are in the season of advent. Advent means “the coming” or the “appearing”. So in this season of advent, we are patiently waiting for the birth of Christ, but we are also waiting for his coming again.
Looking today at the gospel of Luke, which begins 15 months before birth of Jesus. Luke was a physician, which in those days meant he was trained in both medicine and philosophy. Luke was also a Gentile, which is very significant because he is the only Gentile contributor to the holy canon of scripture. Every other book in our bible was written by a Hebrew writer, but Luke is one of us, a gentile. He was an associate and traveling companion of the apostle Paul, and wrote both the gospel which bears his name and the Acts of the Apostles.
The Gospel of Luke was written about AD 70, give or take a couple of years either way. Luke was very painstaking in his research for his Gospel. He used the writings of both Mark, Matthew, and some other sources we don’t know about anymore.
Luke dedicated both his gospel and its sequel, the book of Acts, to a man named Theophilus, which means “Lover of God” or “God lover”. He addresses him here as most excellent Theophilus, so it’s possible this man was a high Roman official or someone else of some distinction. But probably Luke here is simply using a literary device. You could say his Gospel is written to “Mr. Love God”. Do you love god? Then This story is for you.
This is the story of how god saves the world. The story of how god was born as a baby, lived as a man, died as a mortal, and was raised Lord of all. We tell the story beginning in advent. The annual re-enactment of waiting for god to act in history and do what only god can do. The story begins with a birth. Not the birth of the savior, but the fore runner. Not Jesus the Christ but John the Baptist. We begin with an elderly righteous couple named Zechariah and Elizabeth.
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
It begins during the time of King Herod, Herod the great. Cruel, maniacal, megalomaniac, and a genius architect. Herod was rewarded for faithful service to the Roman Empire, he was also a military genius and had won many great battles on behalf of Caesar. He was given the official title “King of the Jews”. Upon receiving this title, Herod proceed directly to offer his sacrifice at temple of Mars, the great god of War.
Herod has been king for about 30 years. He is 70 years old, coming near the end of his life. Brutal and barbarous, Herod was most definitely not the king the Jews had been looking for.
There is a great juxtaposition in Luke’s story – we have brutal, powerful king in Herod on one hand, and a pious, elderly, humble, righteous old couple, a priest and his wife living in hill country on the other hand. They’ve been faithful to god, had wanted children, prayed for children, waited for children, but have reached a ripe old age and alas, no children. Advent is about waiting. Waiting for God to do whatever God will do. We have our own expectations, our own demands, our own timetable for what we want God to do, Amen! But Advent is about abandoning that and saying “God, you will do what you will do when you want to do it. I trust you.” But do it soon please…
That’s advent, that’s Zachariah and Elizabeth They had prayed, were pious, righteous, a priest and his wife entering old age childless. It’s a picture of Israel itself. Israel has been waiting through a long season of disappointment. They’ve been for 600 years with no real king. Wasn’t there a promise? Wasn’t there a promise that there would always be a son of David upon the throne…yet there hasn’t been a king for 600 years. Now they have this imposter Herod? Living that that whole time under gentile domination. Babylon, Persia, Greece, and now Rome. They’ve been an oppressed people without the promises of God seeming to come to pass. How long??? They’ve been waiting, waiting, waiting…how long will they have to wait???
How long have we been waiting for Christ to come again? I guess we are coming up on 2000 years now, aren’t we? How long, O Lord, will we have to wait?? How long before you do something Lord?
How long have you been waiting? How long have you waited for Christ to do something in your life? What are you waiting for, what are you praying for? Advent is the season of waiting. We patiently (or not) wait for Christmas morning, for that feast and that celebration and the gifts and the joy and the love. It always seems to come, doesn’t it?
But we also wait for Christ to come again. This we are not so patient for. This, it seems, may never come. By never, we mean not in our lifetimes. This is the hardest wait. There is no date on the calendar (and no, it’s not next Tuesday. Or whatever the next date the apocalypse “experts” try to tell us). We want God to come, we expect Him to come…but we want it to be now. It should be now. We want to know, we want to see. Faith is just so hard.
But wait we must.