One of the Christmas memories that our family enjoyed while our children were growing in Michigan as to take a night time dive looking at Christmas lights. Our friends Dave and Sue were a young married couple who did not yet have children and they would pile into our blue Chrysler min-van and tour with us. Dave was a Michigan native and knew where all of the best decorated houses were.
Every year, Dave would compile a “Christmas Mix” cassette tape to listen to as we drove through classy neighborhoods admiring the lights. Whenever I hear one the songs from Dave’s mix tape, I am brought back to those memories. I can recall those drives and even some of the funny moments we enjoyed on those Michigan winter nights.
Music is a powerful gift from God that moves our hearts. This Christmas series is about the “Songs of Christmas.” During our corporate worship we will talk about some of the songs that we sing and their meaning. The MUSIC of CHRISTMAS is powerful because the MESSAGE of Christmas is powerful.
But we also want to look at the songs sung by those who were the first to hear of the Savior’s birth. The good news touched their lives and caused them to burst into song. God graciously provides these songs for us in the gospels.
The first of these songs is the song that Elizabeth sang when her cousin Mary arrived with the good news that she was carrying a special child conceived by the Holy Spirit. Actually, Elizabeth’s song is really Elizabeth’s SHOUT. Luke tells us that she exclaimed her praise at the top of her lungs. Let’s learn about her shout of praise.
That MESSAGE begins in Luke’s Gospel not with the story of JESUS, but with the story of JOHN the Baptist and his parents Zacharias and Elizabeth.
“In 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. ” “Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. ” “But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years. ” “Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God,”
“The 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 the Son of God. ” “Even 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. ” “For nothing is impossible with God.” ” “”I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her. ” “At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, ” “where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. ” “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. ” “In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! ” “But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? ” “As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. ” “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!””
When Mary arrived, Elizabeth burst into joy! I think that’s a good thing for all of us to do when we hear about Jesus!
Luke 1:42 could be literally translated “With a great SHOUT, she exclaimed….”
What was the source of her praise? Why was Elizabeth so joyful that this dignified elderly woman would loose her composure and praise God like this?
FIRST – Elizabeth Rejoiced Because God Did Something Impossible In Her Life Luke 1:35-37
She was BARREN Luke 1:7 “But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.” Zacharias and Elizabeth had long been a testimony of loving God and faithfully serving him, even though they had never been blessed with a child. This was the greatest disappointment in their life, but they continued to love God through it all. They had long ago given up hope that they would have a child.
I recently read about a the Oldest known pregnancy today. A 70 year old woman from India named Rajo Devi gave birth to a healthy child in 2008. Another 68 year old woman gave birth to twins in 2006. But these, and other geriatric pregnancies were the result of fertility drugs or In Vitro Fertilization. Such medical advances were not known in Elizabeth’s day and I can assure you that in her time, 70 year old women did not give birth!
There was NO HOPE that Elizabeth would have a child. Because of this, Elizabeth received everyone’s PITY. In their youth, their young friends would invite them over for special celebrations and give them cheer, but while watching the other children play made them smile, it also brought deep sadness in their hearts because they were childless. Now, their friends were bragging about grandchildren and showing pictures (well not really, but use your imagination!) Zacharias and Elizabeth would never have such grandparent pride.
When Elizabeth discovers the miracle that would take place in her womb, her response is that God has done this for me.” Luke 1:25. The emphasis here is that God did something impossible!
The ANGEL told Mary that God was going to do something impossible for Elizabeth.
“The 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 the Son of God. ” “Even 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. ” “For nothing is impossible with God.””
Nothing is impossible with God!
JESUS HIMSELF would repeat this same truth. Later in this same gospel the question arose about a rich man entering heaven. For most rich men, their trust in wealth keeps them from trusting in God. The disciples reply, “well then who can get to heaven?” The Savior’s reply encompasses all people – rich and poor. Jesus said, Luke 18:26–27 “Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?” ” “Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.””
I think that the miracles of the virgin birth and Elizabeth’s late in life birth were in mind when Jesus made this comparison! The truth is that if you are born again, YOU have received the IMPOSSIBLE in your life! For Mary and Elizabeth something that was PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE occurred in their lives. But for our salvation, something happened that was SPIRITUALLY IMPOSSIBLE in our lives!
Just like Elizabeth, we have reason to SHOUT our praise to GOD!
SECOND: Elizabeth Rejoiced Because a Spirit-filled Friend Encouraged her.
“At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea,”
NOTE: the announcement to MARY is timed according to Elizabeth’s pregnancy! When Luke gives us a chronology of events in the birth narrative of Jesus, he uses Elizabeth’s pregnancy as the starting point! Luke 1:26 “In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee.” In this verse, the “sixth month” is the sixth monh of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. The previous context to Luke 1:26 is about Elizabeth. The connecting verse between Elizabeth’s miracle birth and Mary’s miracle birth is Luke 1:26 and it is Elizabeth’s birth that is the time reference. This elevates Elizabeth’s birth to a very important status!
But there is another time marker signifying the importance of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Luke 1:36 “Even 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.” This time marker is spoken by none other than Gabriel, and the response from Mary is instantaneous. Mary leaves “at once” to visit Elizabeth (Luke 1:39).
Note the comparisons and similarities between Mary and Elizabeth:
Comparisons between MARY and ELIZABETH
Mary was YOUNG, Elizabeth was OLD
Mary was childless because she was a VIRGIN, Elizabeth was childless because she was BARREN.
BOTH births were a great miracle.
BOTH women were godly
BOTH women were visited by the angel Gabriel
BOTH women had husbands who were stronger in faith than their husbands
Mary spends THREE MONTHS encouraging Elizabeth. Luke 1:56 “Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.”
Mary ENCOURAGED Elizabeth.
A godly friend can encourage you.
If you are facing disappointment like Zacharias and Elizabeth’s, God will sometimes send a friend to encourage you. It might come through a card or call, or time with someone who loves you. It can even come from someone you don’t know or who lived long ago. I’m speaking about the encourage that we receive through sermons, books and songs written by people who, if we knew them, would befriend us. They grace us through their Spirit-filled words!
God reminds us of his love through others who love God and can encourage us.
THIRD: Elizabeth Rejoiced Because JESUS came NEAR. Luke 1:40–41
“She (Mary) entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. ” “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Elizabeth’s baby (John the Baptist) LEAPED in her womb
This pre-natal worship service is repeated in Luke 1:41, 44
When JESUS comes into our lives he brings JOY. When we hear about him, we should also leap for joy! This is why Jesus came. John 15:11 “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
FOURTH: Elizabeth Rejoiced Because She was HUMBLED by God’s Blessings.
Luke 1:42–43 “In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! ” “But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”
Elizabeth praises Mary. It is SAD that this praise of Mary has been turned into FALSE WORSHIP. This praise if the phrase monotonously recited by millions around the world today through the “hail Mary” that is the foundation of prayer in the Roman Catholic faith. But while Elizabeth’s words recognize the blessing that Mary received by bearing the Messiah, her words in no way allow for the false teaching about Mary, or the Mary worship that so many have been committed to for centuries. There is no foundation in Scripture for many elements of Mary worship that exist today. This type of worship does not draw us closer to Christ, but rather distracts us from Christ by giving us a substitute who is powerless to meet our spiritual need.
Mary is not a co-redeemer with Christ
Mary was not conceived without a human father
Mary was not assumed into heaven
Mary does not intercede for us in prayer to the Father
Elizabeth’s praise is genuine and reflects her humility Luke 1:43 “But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”
Elizabeth recognizes the authority of CHRIST
Before he is born
Before he performs any miracles
Before he preaches a single sermon
Before he dies on the cross
Before he raises from the dead!
FINALLY, Elizabeth Rejoiced Because She BELIEVED GOD’s WORD. Luke 1:45
“Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”
Elizabeth knew something about miraculous pregnancy!
She praised Mary for believing God’s Word.
Elizabeth’s Rejoicing Spread to Others
To MARY. Elizabeth’s encouragement resulted in an even greater outburst of praise from Mary’s lips, contained in her beautiful song to God, which we will study as part of this series. It is found in Luke 1:45-55
To EVERYONE. All of Zacharias and Elizabeth’s friends rejoice with them and praise God for the miracle given to this old couple who were blessed with a child. Luke 1:57–58 “When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. ” “Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.”
Your BARRENNESS cannot keep you from praising God!
Your BARRENNESS will not continue!
Your soul will rejoice in the Lord.
wrote this poem
I refuse to be discouraged, to be sad, or to cry;
I refuse to be down-hearted, and here’s the reason why:
I have a God who’s mighty–who’s sovereign and supreme;
I have a God who loves me, and I am on His team.
He is all-wise and powerful–Jehovah is His name;
Though everything is changeable, my God remains the same.
My God knows all that’s happening–beginning to the end;
His presence is my comfort; He is my dearest Friend.
When sickness comes to weaken me–to bring my head down low;
I call upon my mighty God; into His arms I go.
When circumstances threaten to rob me of my peace,
He draws me close unto His breast where all my strivings cease.
When my heart melts within me, and weakness takes control,
He gathers me into His arms–He soothes my heart and soul.
The great “I AM” is with me–my life is in His hand;
The “God of Jacob” is my hope; it’s in His strength I stand.
I refuse to be defeated — my eyes are on my God;
He has promised to be with me as through this life I trod.
I’m looking past all circumstance to Heaven’s throne above;
My prayers have reached the heart of God–I’m resting in His love.
I give God thanks in everything–my eyes are on His face;
The battle’s His, the vict’ry mine; He’ll help me win the race. —