From Heaven to Earth The Gift Arrives
Sermon Summary
This message looks at Zechariah’s prophecy concerning the coming Messiah, which he spoke shortly after his own son John was born, and then looks at the actual birth of Jesus as told in Luke’s gospel. Amazing details concerning Jesus and the difference He would make in those who would receive Him are given in Zechariah’s prophecy and in the announcement of the angel to the shepherds. Zechariah reveals that Jesus was God in the flesh, the horn of salvation, the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, and the sun of righteousness which would shine upon the darkness of humankind. The angels revealed that Jesus was indeed for all people and not just one race or culture. Jesus was a gift from Heaven to Earth and God’s favor and peace would rest on anyone who would be willing to receive His gift of love.

Small Group Discussion Guide
1. People, especially children, anticipate the arrival of Christmas. Many times they are excited about the gifts. Can you remember a special Christmas in your past in which a particular gift stood out from all the rest?  

2. Most gifts, no matter how special, eventually wear out, lose their usefulness, or we simply outgrow them. However, the gift God sent is different. Explain why God’s gift on that first Christmas is different from all other gifts and how His gift keeps on giving?
2 John 1:2  because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever:
2 John 1:3  Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father's Son, will be with us in truth and love.

3. According to Zechariah’s prophecy, Jesus was to be the horn of salvation for those who would accept Him as Savior. What are some of the things we need salvation from?
Rom 6:20  When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.
Rom 6:21  What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!
Rom 6:22  But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
Rom 6:23  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

4. The cost of the gift God had given to humankind on that first Christmas would not be fully realized until the crucifixion. Explain how those who come to see the magnitude of  God’s sacrifice are forever changed by this revelation.   
1 Pet 1:18  For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers,
1 Pet 1:19  but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
1 Pet 1:20  He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.
1 Pet 1:21  Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

Full Sermon Notes
From Heaven to Earth: The Gift Arrives
Luke 1:57-2:20

We've talked about the amazing details God put into the preparation and planning for the gift He was going to send us that first Christmas. It was no last minute gift! We talked about the reactions of Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Mary. Today we will take a glimpse back at the actual arrival of the gift.

Just before we get to the actual arrival of the gift we are going to look at one more powerful prophesy concerning that gift. A prophesy which points to the beautiful way heaven touched earth that first Christmas. It is a prophesy that describes what this gift was going to accomplish in the lives all who would accept the gift.

We're going to end our special Christmas service today with an opportunity to participate in Holy Communion, a practice that causes us to remember the ultimate reason God sent His Son that Christmas night so long ago. Let's PRAY and ask God to teach us through His Word and that it will touch our lives!

Take your Bibles and turn with me to Luke 1:57. Zechariah's son John, has just been born and Zechariah is finally able to speak again. Remember he had lost his voice when the angel appeared to him and told him his wife Elizabeth was going to have a son and he doubted. Let's pick up the story here...

57When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son.
58Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.
59On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah,
60but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”
61They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”
62Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child.
63He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.”
64Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God.

65The neighbors were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things.
66Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.
67His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

It is important to note the majority of his prophecy will not be about his son John, but about Jesus. Let's see...

68“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.

The first thing Zechariah reveals about the coming gift was that it was an incarnation. Incarnation is the term we use to describe the fact that Jesus was God in the flesh. Zechariah said...  

68“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.

Paul spoke plainly of the incarnation in his second letter to the Corinthian Church...

17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:
19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

So we know the gift God sent was truly divine. Jesus was not just another baby boy, He was not just another prophet, He was the Son of God and as such was God the Son! A powerful mystery, but true non-the-less!!
Let's hear more of Zechariah's prophecy...

69He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David
70(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),

The Old Testament alter for animal sacrifices had four horns on each corner. These were used to tie down the sacrifice and were ceremonially covered with blood as a reminder a life had been given to cover sin. Also, in the Old Testament, a guilty person could run to the alter and hold on to the horns and plead for protection and mercy.

Isn't it amazing how Zechariah prophesies that Jesus will be the horn of salvation. Ironic that Jesus, who was nailed and probably tied to the Cross as well, would become the horn of salvation.

He is the One we must cling to in order for mercy and forgiveness to be imparted to us. Zechariah is himself prophesying, but he reminds us of the prophesies which had already been given by the prophets of old.
Zechariah's prophesy continues...

71salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us—

There were some national implications for the people of Israel in this prophecy, but it was also very much meant for the individual, Jew and Gentile alike. This gift God was sending into the world would make salvation possible for all who would accept the gift!!

Salvation from our enemies! And who are those enemies? Israel had many enemies. You and I have enemies as well. Satan is our enemy. He's the one who has come to kill, steal and destroy! Sin is also our enemy. It is a tool Satan uses to kill, steal and destroy! We need salvation from these enemies! Zechariah continues...

72to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant,
73the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear
75in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

Jesus was to be the fulfillment of God's promise He made to Abraham many years earlier. You might remember Abraham had offered his only son as a sacrifice to God, but God did not allow him to sacrifice Issac, but provided a ram and gave him a promise that someday one of his descendants would bless the earth. That descendant was Jesus!

Through Jesus and the sacrifice He would later make on the Cross, God would offer to set humankind free from the judgment of the law, the power of sin, the sting of death, the seeming victory of the grave and from our enemy Satan.

It's like this. God sent Jesus to be our ransom. He was the payment given to purchase our freedom. It's like the days of slavery, which sadly still exist in the world even today. Sometimes a person would buy a slave for the express purpose of setting them free! That's what God wants to do in your life today.

God wants you to be free from bondage. He wants you to be free to worship and serve Him if you choose to do so. He wants to give you this gift this Christmas, question is, will you accept the one gift that could last forever. The one gift which could change your life now and forever. Some would rather remain in their bondage. How sad.

Zechariah then mentions his son, John, briefly…

76And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins,

Zechariah then immediately moves back into prophesy concerning Jesus the Messiah...

78because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

These two verses say so much! It's because of the tender mercy of God that the gift was given!! Zechariah speaks of the rising sun come to us from Heaven. What does this mean? Listen to the Old Testament prophet Malachi's words...

4:2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.

Jesus was the Son, S O N, who was like the sun, S U N, who would shine a light spiritually on those living in spiritual darkness! He would be a light to guide anyone who would follow Him from the shadow of death into a life of peace.
As a result we are set free like calves released from a stall. Why? Because we've been set free from our bondage!! So from Zachariah's prophecy we see that God's gift, Jesus, was an incarnation of God in the flesh. He was a horn of salvation for those who would receive His gift. He was the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham.

He was the One who would set people free from their slavery to sin. He was the one who could give us power over our enemies. He was truly the light of the world coming to shine God's mercy into our darkness and lostness!!

Luke then transitions from Zachariah's prophecy to the literal arrival of the gift...

1:80 And the child (John) grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel.

2:1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.
2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)
3And everyone went to his own town to register.
4So 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.
5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,
7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Let me just say this…With all the preparation, prophecies, and planning, the world wasn't ready for the gift God was sending. There was no room in the inn. The King of King's and Lord of Lords was born in a stable and placed in a manger. A lowly feed trough.

But it was all a part of God's master plan. Jesus was no ordinary King. He was not going to demand servitude, and worship like earthly kings. He was not going to use His position and power to force people to follow His leadership. He didn't want people bowing down to Him because they were afraid of what He might do if they didn't.

Jesus wasn't going to try to get people to follow Him by appealing to their desires to be a part of high society. No, Jesus came into this world in a very lowly way on purpose. And as if to make His point, some of the first people to hear about His arrival were lowly shepherds tending their flocks at night. Let's read on...

8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.
9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

 I love it. It will be for all people! The lowest of the low and the highest of the high. The common denominator would be the willingness in a person's heart to accept the gift God had sent…The angel continues….

11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

Peace to men on whom His favor rest? What does this mean? According to multiple Scriptures God's favor rest upon those who receive the Christmas gift He has offered to the whole world. John the Apostle put it this way when he talked about John the Baptist and Jesus…John 1:1-14

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2He was with God in the beginning.
3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
4In him was life, and that life was the light of men.
5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
6There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John.
7He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.
8He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
9The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
10He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.
11He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
12Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God —
13children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Wow, what a beautiful description of the Christmas story. John's gospel does have a birth narrative of sorts, it simply looks at the spiritual aspects of what happened when The Word Became Flesh and dwelt among us! The Word becoming flesh was seen in that little boy in the manger.

Your decision this Christmas is to receive or reject the gift God offered on that first Christmas! A gift given but not received does no one any good. The Shepherds decided they wanted the gift the angels had told them about so they sought Jesus and found Him!! It changed their lives forever.

15When 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.”
16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.
17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,
18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

The gift had finally arrived. However, the cost of the gift God had given wouldn't be revealed until some years later. Those who discover the cost of that first Christmas gift are generally the ones who humbly receive and cherish the gift for the rest of their lives. You see, this Christmas it is all about the gift! Not the gifts under the tree, but the gift that years ago hung upon a tree.

Years later, Jesus shares with His disciples the price it was going to cost for God's gift to be given...

14When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table.
15And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.
16For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
17After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you.
18For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
19And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
20In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

This morning we come to remember the cost of the gift given to us on that first Christmas. Jesus had come to this earth for the express purpose of going to the Cross to take our place. Observance of the Lord's Supper!