The 10th Day of Advent
December 6, 2022
“Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense” (Luke 1.8-9). “And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense” (Luke 1.11).
Zacharias and the Angel, c.1635 (pen & ink on paper), Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (1606-69)
Christmas is a reminder to me that nothing in our lives happens by chance although it often appears that life happens by chance. I love the story of Zacharias (men, it has direct implications for how we live our lives – that’s another entire sermon).
According to Galatians 4.4 (a passage we looked at on the 2nd day of Advent – “when the fullness of time came”), God marks time every day. The Christmas story came to life on a day when “it happened … by lot” when Zacharias was taking his turn to burn incense in the temple.
I love it. God appeared to Zacharias on a typical day that seemed to him to be just an ordinary day, and he was doing his duty because it was his “lot that day” to serve in the temple (because there were so many of them, they were chosen by lot to serve in the various ways to serve in the temple). Little did he know how this day would change his life, the life of his family, and God’s plan for the birth of Messiah. Truly it could be said of Zacharias that this time might have been the only time his lot was ever chosen to do this particular task in the temple. Just an ordinary day doing your ordinary tasks.
The same could be said of Jesus's birth in Bethlehem. Who else could have orchestrated Micah’s prophesy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem with the timing of the decree from Ceasar Augustus which was the decision that made Joseph and Mary be in Bethlehem on the night Jesus was born!
Our temptation is to live our days as usual and ordinary days – nothing spectacular about this day – just an ordinary day doing ordinary stuff. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The psalmist cries out; “This is the day the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118.24). Moses prayed; “So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90.12). Every day counts for eternity.
Christmas is the spectacular sovereignty of God displayed in daily life. What was true for Jesus and Christmas is true for me and you today. Christmas has come and is coming.
When I was just a child, my mother taught me a song that she learned from her grandfather, and I still sing this song nearly every morning when I wake. Think through the words.
“I Owe the Lord a Morning Song” by Amos Herr. 1890
On the cover of one of my mother’s hymnal (my Dad’s Mennonite hymnal, p.278) she wrote these words – “This is the song my grandfather Miller taught me when our family took him along to Wildwood New Jersey for a couple of days…I was about 13.”
I owe the Lord a morning song Of gratitude and praise, For the kind mercy, He has shown In length’ning out my days.
He kept me safe another night; I see another day; Now may His Spirit, as the light, Direct me in His way.
Keep me from danger and from sin; Help me Thy will to do. So that my heart be pure within, And I Thy goodness know.
Keep me till Thou wilt call me hence, Where never night can be; And save me, Lord, for Jesus’ sake, He shed His blood for me.
Pay attention to all that is meant when you say the greeting, “Merry Christmas.” Believe without a shadow of a doubt that Christmas, Advent, and each day is a special day for you and for every purpose of God. Sovereignty – every day has an eternal destiny.
We are not here by chance. Whatever your age, we are here today by the sovereign choice of our sovereign LORD.
“The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all” (Psalm 103.19).
“Merry Christmas!” Happy 10th day of Advent!