From Heaven to Earth “Definitely not a last minute gift!”
Sermon Summary
This message takes a look at the amazing detail God went to in planning the gift He was going to give the world through His Son Jesus Christ. The amazing facts surrounding the birth of Christ are a part of the gift package from “Heaven to Earth.” God didn’t expect us to hear a nice little story about a baby being born Savior of the world and just say, “Okay, I believe that.” He knew there would need to be some real and tangible ways for a person seeking the truth to verify the story. That’s why we have the prophecies of Christ foretold as much as a thousand years before His birth. That’s why their are over 60 prophecies concerning Jesus in the Old Testament. And when we get to the New Testament and the time for the actual birth of the Messiah, the details and miraculous ways in which Heaven touches earth, are astounding. This first message of the series looks at the experience of Zechariah and Elizabeth as God reveals to them the part they will play in His plan to save the world. They would be the parents of John the Baptist, the one who would prepare the way for Jesus. All this detail serves to prove just how much God cares for you and your life.

Small Group Discussion Guide

1. The details, the prophecies, and the amazing stories that surround the birth narrative of Jesus Christ, makes it hard for a believer to understand how someone could reject the story as untrue. What do you think leads some people to ignore the statistical probability evidence pointing to Jesus as the Messiah?

2. It takes faith to believe, but do you agree with Bro. Larry that evidence of God’s existence is out there for those who will seek the truth? Why or why not?
Acts 17:26  From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.
Acts 17:27  God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

3. Zechariah was not sure what to think when he heard what the angel told him. He questioned the angel. What would have been your response if it had been you? Do you sometimes have a hard time trusting God with His plans for your life?   
Prov 3:5  Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
Prov 3:6  in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
Prov 3:7  Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.
Prov 3:8  This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.


4. Zechariah and Elizabeth had faithfully served God and yet remained childless. Back in their day people considered couples without children as under some kind of curse from God. We know from Scripture this was certainly not the case with Zechariah and Elizabeth! Still today when we face difficult times we may wonder if it's something we've done wrong or maybe we just don't have enough faith. God had a plan far greater than anything Zechariah or Elizabeth could have ever imagined and we've got to learn to trust God's plans for our lives as well. Dr. Nave put it this way..."It may seem superficial for us to say "It will all work out in the end, but God is moving us toward a conclusion that is ultimately good!" Have you ever felt God has forgotten you and no matter how much you tried and prayed, things just weren't working? Explain. Or maybe you’ve had an experience where you waited on the Lord and trusted Him and later you discovered why the wait. Explain.
Jer 29:11  For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper     you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jer 29:12  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
Jer 29:13  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.


From Heaven to Earth
Definitely not a last minute gift!
Luke 1

Let's pray and ask God to speak to our hearts in a way today that we would begin to understand just how much He must love us to put the kind of time and effort into the gift He gave us on that first Christmas many years ago….
PRAY!!!!

Today we begin a series some might tend to dismiss as irrelevant to their personal lives in today's modern world. A Christmas series! Sweet, but how on earth could discussion about an event some two thousand thirteen years ago make any difference in my life? So glad you asked! I'll do my best to answer that question today!

We don't know the exact date of Christ's birth or the exact year. However, we have some pretty good ideas. And historians don't just look to the Bible for information. There are many other sources of about Jesus the man outside of the Bible.

Some people question whether Jesus was even a real person. Let me put it this way…you may not believe Jesus was God's Son, or that He was divine, or that He was anything other than an ordinary human being, but to deny the historical Jesus you would have to deny way more than just the Bible.

In fact, I'll just turn to a very secular source of information that is highly used by our modern day, computer savvy, society. How many of you have ever used Wikipedia?
A pretty good source of general information and it does have loads and loads of links to other places for info.

I checked the sources on the following statements and they were from very reliable  and respected sources. Listen to what Wikipedia says about Jesus...

Although the gospels do not provide enough details regarding exact dates, it is possible to draw from them a general picture of the

life story of Jesus and to establish some date ranges regarding the major events in his  

life via correlations with non-Christian sources.[1][2][23]

A number of historical non-Christian documents, such as Jewish and Greco-Roman sources, have been used in  

 historical analyses of the existence of Jesus and his chronology.[24]

Virtually all modern historians agree that Jesus existed, and regard his baptism and his crucifixion as historical events,

 and assume that approximate ranges for these events can be estimated.[25][26][27


 Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronology_of_Jesus

So Jesus was a real human being. I believe He was indeed The Son of God and I believe He was a Heavenly gift sent to this world in order to offer salvation to all who would believe. Some will, some will not! I had someone recently ask me why God doesn't just prove to the world that He exist and then everybody would believe.

 I told them I've had that same question before in my life. I mentioned how God did some pretty amazing things in the Bible and yet many people refused to believe. I've got a modern day scenario for you...

Some would like to be driving down the road when all of a sudden a big hand comes down out of the sky and slaps the pavement in front of them causing the road to buckle and their car to go careening up into the air while God catches the car with His other hand and gently let's it down on the side of the road.

He then, gently opens the door and says with a powerful, but gentle voice, "Any questions?" "Uh, no sir, I think I got it!"
Others might say, "Ok, how did I end up on a movie set? I know I'm on a movie set. This can't be real!"
Bottom line, God doesn't work that way.

He does, however, do miraculous things to try and reach you. He puts special people in your life, He protects you in order to give you chance after chance, and He has given you access to the most miraculous book ever written. The Bible. 66 books, at least 39 authors, compiled over 1,500 years!

Not an ordinary book and not ordinary content. He plans things down to the very last little detail! He's just such a loving and caring God. You see...

God wants you to believe in Him, to trust in Him, to choose Him. God wants you to seek Him, to seek truth, to seek understanding, to seek knowledge, to seek wisdom. If you are willing to seek, God has put all of the proof you'll ever need within your reach.

Here's the key…You must desire truth. You must seek truth. Many do not seek truth because truth would conflict with their personal goals and agenda, which at times can be quite selfish. In order to know truth you must put self aside and embrace truth.

And if you're wondering if I've all of a sudden gone Eastern religion on you, let me quote to you something Jesus Himself said later own in His ministry. It's found in Luke's Gospel 11:9-13

9“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

10For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

11“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?

12Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?

13If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in

heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Okay, with this in mind, I want us to examine just how much preparation went into the gift heaven was going to send to earth. Over the coming weeks we will look at how heaven touched earth in special ways leading up to the giving of the gift of Jesus on Christmas.

When we talk about details, it's pretty amazing when we consider the prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the coming of Jesus. I've asked Luis to share with us some research he did on this topic this week. Luis….

Luis slides here….
Luis will tell you when to show them. Wait for his cue.

That would be 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,00" (one hundred quadrillion)  

What are the odds Jesus fulfilled all 48? The answer is 1 in 10 to the 157th power

1 in 10,00,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,

 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,

 000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,00

0,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 000,000,000

Amazing detail! The fact is God did some impeccable planning before He sent us that first Christmas gift! So the prophesies had been given and the Jewish faithful had been waiting for many years to see their fulfillment. When would it come to pass?
Open your Bibles to Luke Chapter 1:1. An amazing story is about to unfold!

It had been a long, long time since heaven had touched earth in such a powerful, significant, and tangible way. Thousands of years of preparation were drawing to an historical climax. The exact people, the exact circumstances, the exact timing, were coming together according to Father God's perfect plan!

Luke begins his story with an important introduction statement. Listen...

1Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us,

2just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.

3Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good

also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,

4so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

 Luke was a Gentile and yet he feels an urgent since of calling to share a Jewish story. A story about a Jew named Jesus who had fulfilled ancient prophecies. Luke, a gentile, was so blown away with the way Jesus had fulfilled the Jewish prophecies of The Messiah, he wanted to make sure others knew.

 Luke had obviously become a follower of Christ. The truths about Him were just too much to ignore. Luke was not one of the twelve disciples or an eyewitness to Jesus. He does just what he said he would do in the verses we just read. He drew from the eyewitnesses, namely Mark, and sought to show in detail how Jesus was the Messiah!

 Theophilus, was probably a Roman official of high ranking, thus the prefix, most excellent. Interestingly, the name Theophilus means "friend of God." So Luke was probably protecting this persons identity for safety reasons.

Luke was writing his gospel account in an attempt to reach others with the amazing truth about Jesus Christ and so he begins his story with an amazing story of two very pious and devout Jewish people, Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth. Luke is going to highlight the detail in which God was working to prepare earth for heavens gift!

Let's look at Luke 1:5-ft

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.

Let me stop right here for a moment. Elizabeth was barren. That's a devastating thing for a woman, especially if she wants a child of her own. And back in Bible days, a barren woman was seen as having been abandoned by God, or cursed. But this could not have been the case! Why? Listen to what Luke said about them...

6Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly.

So it wasn't something they had done. Some in our world today might be willing to point the finger and say, "Not enough faith!"
How wrong of us to make such judgements! Only God knows what's in someones heart. Only God knows why some things are the way they are.

Here's the truth…God had a plan neither of them could have ever imagined, and it had something to do with that first Christmas gift. Zechariah was about to find out, although he won't fully understand...

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.

I know the suspense is killing you, but you've got to know this…What I'm going to tell you is another amazing mathematical oddity. Listen to what historians say about Zechariah being chosen at this particular time to take care of the temple duties.

"According to some estimates, there were approximately 20,000 priest in Palestine at this time. Each of the 24 divisions ministered in the Temple for one  

week twice during the year. Since there were hundreds of priest in a division, they were chosen by lot to officiate at  

 certain rituals. Such a privilege as the burning of incense, which took place daily morning and evening, would fall to the lot of

given priest no more than once during his lifetime."
Broadman Commentary
Malcom O. Tolbert

Once again, God was preparing the details for His upcoming gift to the world. But let's read on, and I'll try to stop interrupting Luke's story...

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.

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.”

Zechariah and Elizabeth have just found out they are a part of God's detailed plans to introduce the Messiah to the world. They will give birth to John the Baptist, who will prepare the way of the Lord! This was prophesied in the Old Testament book of Malachi.  

Now I must keep a commitment I made earlier in the service. I told you I would help you understand what any of this has to do with you.
Many things, but I'll only share a few.


First of all, even if you've been faithful like Zechariah and Elizabeth, and yet your prayers have not been answered, God has not forgotten you and you must trust He as a plan. Trust, it's a must have ingredient for any relationship to be a good relationship!

And what a wonderful Christmas gift from heaven to you this Christmas if you could stop worrying about things and start trusting God with things. I can only imagine how many times Zechariah and Elizabeth wondered why? But they remained faithful.
Somehow they just knew God had things under control.

Do you have that kind of peace in your life? That kind of trust? All the detail God puts into things, why He's got detailed plans for your life. Even the writer of Proverbs understood this...

5Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;

6in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

7Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.

8This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.

Secondly, if God would go to this much trouble to prepare for the giving of the gift of His Son Jesus to be the Savior of the World, don't you know He's been working in the details of your life trying to show you how much He loves you and cares for you. Oh He won't slap His hand on the pavement in front of your car, but if you'll just give

a little bit of effort to seek the truth, you will find truth. You will find Jesus Christ was being truthful when He said "I am the way, the truth and the life…"
You'll also discover, with truth comes freedom. Listen...

30Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him.

31To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.

32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

33They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that

we shall be set free?”

34Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.

35Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.

36So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

This Christmas I pray you'll understand that God's gift to you was no last minute gift and it was no cheep gift!! It was a gift He planned on offering to you even before you were born... John 3:16 states it so well...

16“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have

eternal life.

So God has proven His love for you! He proved it by the gift He sent to you many years ago. And the historical details and amazing ways in which Jesus Christ fulfilled the ancient prophecies of the Old Testament were a part of God's plan to prove His love to anyone who would honestly and earnestly seek Him.  

These amazing facts are a part of God's Christmas package to you. But something about a gift…it must be received. If it is rejected it will do you no good! So what will you do with the gift? More on that when our series continues next week. Let's pray!