This Christmas season we are re-airing some classic Christmas sermons. The one we chose is from 2017 - which seems like a lifetime ago doesn’t it? Well, even though that’s only about 5 Christmas’s ago it makes us pause and wonder. Before Jesus came to earth that first time there were decades and even centuries of anticipation of his coming. Those who were tuned into that promise of Christ, had a song in their hearts about what it meant to them personally.
This first song we are looking at came from Elizabeth. A New Testament character who was full of the Holy Spirit and she sang a hope-filled blessing over Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
John Fonville’s new book is called Hope and Holiness: How the Gospel Enables and Empowers Sexual Purity. It comes out this Fall and was based on the current series. We hope you will take the time to pre-order and invest in your spiritual growth library.
Hope and Holiness: How the Gospel Enables and Empowers Sexual Purity
John Fonville is Pastor of Paramount Church in Jacksonville, Florida. Paramount Church is part of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).
The Him We Proclaim Podcast features the preaching and teaching ministry of Dr. John Fonville at Paramount Church. This resource aims to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to all people. The gospel cannot be assumed. An assumed gospel will, in time, become a denied gospel. Thus, each generation must rediscover the paramount truths of the gospel and apply the gospel's implications to their own day and age. Him we proclaim (Col. 1:28)!
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Original sermons from this series by Dr. John Fonville
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So if you have your Bibles, you can turn to Luke chapter one. Look at verses 39 to 45. So let's just read that together. This is the visitation of Mary to her relative Elizabeth. And most of us are probably familiar with the birth story, the Christmas story of Jesus. But I would say that most of us are probably kind of vaguely familiar with this meeting between Elizabeth and Mary, which is a very important meeting. So let's look at verses 39 to 45. And so Luke writes this, he says, now at this time, Mary rose and went in a hurry to the hill country to a city of Judah. And the entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting the baby, that's John the Baptist, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice and said, Blessed are you among women. And blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how has it happened to me that the mother of my Lord would come to me, for behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she who believed because there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord. So what is Advent? Advent comes from the Latin, a Latin word that means coming or visit. So the time before Christmas is Advent, it is a season of preparation for God's coming his visitation to us and Jesus, the God man. During Advent, Christians prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Incarnation by remembering belonging that these Old Testament saints had for the coming of Christ, the Messiah. So to help us prepare for Christmas, we're going to take the next four Sundays of Advent that leads up to Christmas. And we're going to look at the five songs of the tivity that are recorded for us here in Luke's gospel. So let me just give you a little bit of background about that. In each of these five songs, what we'll discover is Old Testament saints, who are looking and longing for the coming of the promised Offspring of the woman, the coming of Christ, the Messiah. And what you'll see is that all five songs are rooted in this long and winding, progressively unfolding story of how the Triune God has fulfilled his promise, the coming Messiah, who had redeemed his people from their sins. So all these songs have this in common, but to fully appreciate the songs that we're going to look at. And do you understand this, this expectant longing that these Old Testament believers had and to understand why they were so overcome with joy, even a fetus that was six months old, and in his mother's womb, overcomed with joy at the coming of this offspring of the woman to understand this, this Advent of Christ, you have to go all the way back to the very beginning. When God First promise to send his champion Redeemer through the first Mother Eve. Because if you open up the book of Luke, the gospel of Luke, and you begin to read the passages that we just read, it's like walking in to the last quarter of the Star Wars movie. And you're like, Whoa, who's Darth Vader? And who is Luke Skywalker? And who is Yoda? And what is the Death Star and you have all these questions. It's because you've never been back to the beginning and you don't know what's taking place in the movie. So to help you understand what is taking place in God's redemptive timetable, Go back with me all the way to the very beginning to Genesis chapter three. In Genesis, chapter three, right after the fall, the Lord and Genesis chapter three, verse 15, promises to give Eve and offspring who will crush the serpent's head. The Lord's promise to sin, this serpent Crusher through Eve, becomes the central unfolding drama of redemptive history. In fact, the Lord's promise to send this champion offspring of the woman, listen carefully. His promise is the ultimate reason why every mother in Israel was so concerned about having children and being barren. And the question from from Genesis 315, forward, the question that begins to occupy the minds of God's people, especially as every mother of Israel, was this question, who will be the mother of this champion seed? Who will be the mother of the serpent Crusher, who will be the offspring of the woman who will be this woman that will bear the Messiah who will be the mother of the coming Messiah, this occupied every household and every mother in Israel. And so from Genesis 315, forward, this the Lord's promise, creates this expectant longing in the hearts of God's people, looking for this coming champion Redeemer. And so as the story of redemption unfolds, we discover that the offspring of the woman will come through a single line. And the scriptures begin to progressively reveal the ancestral line of this coming offspring of the mother of Eve. This this coming deliverer would come from Eve, Genesis 315, then this coming deliverer would come from the offspring of Abraham, Genesis 15, four. And then this coming deliverer would come through the tribe of Judah, Genesis 4910. And then as you continue to read the story of redemption, the offspring the, the the son of David, the he will be the offspring or the son of David, Second Samuel chapter seven, verses 12 through 13. And so as the coming of the offspring of the woman has been promised, God's people were looking for this, and it didn't happen overnight. And so despite all the twists and all the turns, and all the parents setbacks, and despite the sinfulness and unfaithfulness of Israel, what the Scriptures revealed to us is that the Lord has remained faithful, to fulfill his promise to send the offspring of the woman who will who will come and defeat the serpent, crush Satan's head and obtain victory for God's people. And so all throughout Israel's history in the Old Testament, even within the tribe of Judah, remember Genesis 4910, he will come from the tribe of Judah. Well, the tribe of Judah near the end of the Old Testament is in exile. There is no more Israel and they're thinking, how is this going to happen? But even while the tribe of Judah was in exile in Babylon, the mothers of Israel continued to hope and the promise that one day, one day one of them or one of their daughters, might be the mother of the Messiah. In fact, and First Timothy chapter two, verse 15, the apostle Paul is speaking of Adam And Eve. And he adds a very puzzling line in First Timothy two verse 15. He says that women will be saved through childbirth. Now the Apostle Paul was not teaching that Israel's mothers were trying to save themselves by the act of childbearing. He wasn't teaching salvation through pregnancy, right? What is Paul talking about? What he's talking about, is the longing that these mothers had to give birth to the long awaited Promised Messiah who would bring salvation to his people. And so as we come to the opening chapters of Luke's Gospel were introduced to to Jewish mothers who are pregnant with sons.
Elizabeth and her relative Mary. Elizabeth son, Luke says we'll point God's people to the coming champion Redeemer, but Mary's son Luke will show us Kitt will himself be this champion, Redeemer that has been long for and expected and waited for. And so Luke records that this long awaited, highly anticipated promise, particularly among Israel's mothers will be fulfilled listen, and a young, obscure Jewish virgin in an equally obscure part of this earth, where Bible scholars still to this day, don't know exactly the precise location of God Judea, most think it was just a big region, but they don't know the precise location. So it was obscurity that this promise champion Redeemer comes, and fulfillment of God's promise. So look with me and Luke chapter one, look at verses 26 to 38. Mary receives this most extraordinary announcement, she is told by the angel Gabriel that she out of all the Jewish mothers, over all time up to this point, she will be the mother of the Messiah. Look at verse 26. It says, Now, in the sixth month, an angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin, engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, greetings, favorite one, the Lord is with you. But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, Do not be afraid, Mary, For you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and Bera son, and you shall name him Jesus, He will be great, and he will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end. Mary said to the angel, How can this be since I'm a virgin? Now angel answered and said to her, the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. And for that reason, the holy child shall be called the Son of God. And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age. And she who was called barren, is now in her six month, for nothing will be impossible with God. Nothing is impossible with a God of promise and performance. And Mary said, Behold, the bond slave of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word, in the angel departed from her. This astounding announcement to this obscure young Jewish virgin mother to be now brings us to the song of Elizabeth which is the first song we're going to look at in these five songs and tivity. The song of Elizabeth that we read in Luke chapter one, verses 39 to 45. This is the first of five songs that clusters around the nativity story and Luke's Gospel. And so what you have here and Lizabeth song is, it is a Hebrew song that is translated into Greek prose. And the each of these songs emphasize that God is the object of praise because he is the one who fulfills His promise. And he comes in fulfills his promise. He shows His favor His grace to the lowly and he lifts up the downcast. In fact, the A major theme of Luke's Gospel, particularly the first two chapters, is that God does what He says He will promise to do. God always fulfills His promise is a huge theme, and Luke's opening two chapters. And then each song also emphasizes that fallen man centers are the recipient of God's blessing through faith alone, which creates joyful praise to the gods who is faithful to redeem fallen men. And so that's how all of the songs are situated in the Old Testament. And so as we come to Luke chapter one, and look at Elizabeth song, Elizabeth song and Mary song, which we'll see next week, are part of the same occasion. It's as a part of this meeting that happens between these two expected mothers. And so the song of Elizabeth really falls into two broad parts. First of all, you have Mary's greeting. And then second, you have Elizabeth's blessing. So let's look at Mary's greeting first and verses 39 to 40. Look at Mary's greeting. In those days, Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. Now why did Mary do this? Because the passage that we read prior about the angel Gabriel's announcement to Mary, she's overjoyed with this astonishing news that she receives the she is going to be the mother of the Messiah. And that she's also been told that her relative Elizabeth, in her old age has been barren, has conceived a son. And so she hastily rushes off to see God's sign in her and her relatives womb, Elizabeth's womb, and tell Elizabeth her relative, this amazing news now Mary's journey was no small journey. Her journey covered 80 to 100 miles, which took her three to four days to complete. But she was willing to go that far in haste because of this astounding good news. And so Luke says that when she arrives, she enters the house Zechariah. She greets Elizabeth, and she tells Elizabeth but by the grace of God, she has been chosen to be the mother of the Messiah, the serpent Crusher promised from ages and ages ago. Now can you imagine your relative coming to your house and saying, Your God gotta believe, who was in my womb. All these years 1000s of years expected longing. And then happens in this obscure Jewish virgin. She tells her that she has been conceived she's that son has been conceived in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit. And this son will be given the throne of David and any Jew back then would have been thinking immediately Second Samuel seven, here comes the glory. This is the serpent Crusher and Mary. God's assumption of our flesh, in the womb of a virgin is a miracle by the power of the Holy Spirit, quite an announcement, is it not? So Mary's greeting, which is an amazing greeting, is met with this response of blessing and joyful praise from Elizabeth. But listen carefully, not just Elizabeth, but Elizabeth Simon, who has at this point a fetus six months old in her womb. So let's look at this response in verses 41 through 45. When Elizabeth heard verse 41, Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she cried out with a loud voice and said, Blessed said, are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. This is the first beatitude and Luke's gospel and there are lots of more beatitudes to come that Jesus will pronounce. But Elizabeth actually pronounces the first beatitude beatitudes in the Gospel holes are the gospel pronounced by God over you, before you've done anything to deserve it, he just pronounced his blessing over you. That's the Beatitudes. It's not be an attitude, like you've heard before, has nothing to do with that. It is God unilaterally pronouncing favor over you, because he's a God of promise and performance in his faithful to His promise to centers. That's a beatitude.
So this is the first beatitude and Luke's gospel, and Elizabeth is functioning as a prophetess. She's filled with the Holy Spirit. Luke says she's overwhelmed with wonder and joy and thanksgiving and Mary's greeting. And she explains to Mary the significance of this moment under the power of the Holy Spirit, filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth cries out, Luke says with a very loud voice. Now, if you've been waiting for 1000s of years for God to come through, I think at this point, you would have quite a loud voice, right? She cries out with a loud voice. And She blesses Mary and she blesses Mary son. And she says, Blessed are you among women. And blessed is the fruit of your womb. Notice three times in the lives Elizabeth song here, that the emphasis is on blessed. Verse 42, and verse 45. So Elizabeth song is really rich about the blessing of the Lord so we could really title The Song of Elizabeth, Elizabeth song of blessing. So blessing blessed, what does it mean to be blessed? Blessed in Scripture is far richer than our word happiness, far richer, to be blessed. What is it to be blessed? Here it is, in a nutshell, to be blessed, is to enjoy the complete well being. By being under the Lord's favor. It is to enjoy complete well being. By being under the Lord's favor. That's what it is to be blessed. So a Jew would have immediately been thinking, for example of like the erotic blood, a benediction of Numbers, chapter six, verses 24, through 26. Here in this erotic benediction, the Lord, it speaks at the Lord causing his face to shine on his people, and listen, and turn his face toward them and kindness. That's what it is to be blessed. The Lord instructs Moses to speak to Aaron and to Aaron sons. And Moses says, Aaron, I want you and your sons to bless the people of Israel. And here's how you'll do it. Say to them this, The Lord bless you, and keep you, the Lord and make his face shine on you and listen and be gracious to you. The Lord, lift up his countenance on you and look, give you peace, complete well being. Why? Because he is making his face of grace shine on you. That's what it is to be blessed. And so Elizabeth, under the power of the Holy Spirit, declares that Mary is the object of the Lord's divine favor, His grace, His blessing, God is shining on Mary in great favor. She is the object of God's sovereign delight. Now notice also that Elizabeth bless his Mary son in her womb, bless it, are you Mary among women, and look, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, not only Mary, but Mary son, who at this point is a fetus is the object of the Father's delight. And as you continue to read the gospels, it says over and over, this is my beloved Son, in whom I'm well pleased. And he says it from the very beginning, when he's a fetus in the womb of Mary. And so clearly, this meeting of Mary Elizabeth is not an ordinary meeting between two expectant mothers we have had and I think we're gonna continue to have lots of expectant mothers and Paramount church, right. And so when you guys meet together, and you talk about your babies, that's a wonderful meeting. But it wasn't this kind of meeting. This was not an ordinary meeting. Look at verses 43 to 44. As Elizabeth continues to explain the significance of the moment to a relative look at verses 43 and 44. Elizabeth says in great humility, and how has it happened to me that the mother of my Lord would come to me. For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. So in humility, Elizabeth is counting it an honor to be a part of Mary's visit. Because remember, she's filled with the Holy Spirit, and through the power of the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth is not recognizing who is actually visiting her in Mary's womb. And it wasn't Mary, it was God. Elizabeth says to Mary, how is it happen to me, that the mother of my Lord, do you see that? The mother of my Lord would come to me Elizabeth marvels, that this long awaited Messiah is visiting her through her relative Mary. She knows by the power of the Holy Spirit, that Mary has been graciously chosen to bear the promised champion Redeemer from Genesis 315. She knows this. She has been looking and longing and waiting for this moment, her whole life. The significance of this expression, my lord, the mother of my Lord, that expression, my Lord, do you know where that comes from? It comes from Psalm 110, which is the most quoted Psalm and the whole New Testament about Christ. And Psalm 110, verse one, David, who, who who says, He is also empowered by the Holy Spirit, so don't miss the Holy Spirit in this passage. He's everywhere. Right? David and powered by the Holy Spirit uses this title, my lord. And Psalm 110, verse one, to describe the coming Messiah Davidic, priest king, he will be like Melchizedek, who was also this unique combination of priests in a king. And so Elizabeth, functioning as a prophet under the power of the Holy Spirit, explains the significance of Mary son by referring to him as my Lord. She's saying that the baby in Mary's womb is The Great Priest, king of Psalm 110. He has the great priests King, whom Psalm 110 says, will come to rule over his people listen in blessing. Bless it are you bless it, are you three times he's coming to rule of his people and blessing and he will be victorious over his enemies? That's what Psalm 110 is all about. And all of us fulfilled in Mary's womb, and Elizabeth through the power of the Holy Spirit knew it. So Mary receives this honor, not because she's deserving of her merit, because we're gonna see on her song, she refers to the baby in her womb as her Savior. She knew she was fallen, she knew she needed this coming Redeemer. But Mary receives honor. Why, to affirm that the child she bears is in fact, the eternal Son of God incarnate, the great priests King promised in Psalm 110. This is why the reformed confessions teach that Marius they attack us, she is the mother of God. And verse 44, Elizabeth tells Mary that upon hearing her greeting, her son, John, who at this point, as I said, is a six month old fetus leaped with joy in her womb. Listen, Elizabeth says the Mary, for behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. Now we know from chapter one of Luke's Gospel in verse 15, that the Holy Spirit was already active in John and filling John as Thetis. Do you see the the courts finest in the Holy Spirit with all these people, David, Elizabeth, Mary, John, the, all of them filled and led by the power of the Holy Spirit, he's making this whole thing happen, folks. Redemption is by the Triune God, and here's the Holy Spirit working on your behalf to save you. And so the angel tells Elizabeth's husband Zechariah, that their son will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. So the fact is, in a manner mysterious beyond all explanation, the Holy Spirit can can be actively present in the heart and life of a baby in the womb. And this cannot be questioned. Exactly what's taking place here. What we have is another miraculous divine sign for by Elizabeth sun, testifies to and confirms the Messianic, the Psalm 110. The identity of who Jesus is by leaping with joy in his mother's womb.
John, who is John, he's the last and greatest of the Old Testament prophets. And he is already as a six month old fetus who is filled and led by the power of the Holy Spirit like his mother, Elizabeth, to begin his prophetic work as the forerunner of pointing people to Jesus, and he's doing it from the womb. He is testifying to Jesus as a six month old fetus. John's first testimony about Jesus is the fulfillment of the angel of the Lord's message to John's father, Zachariah looked back at chapter one, look at verses 16 and 17. The angel of the Lord and chapter one verses 16. And 17, says to Zachariah, he that's your son, John, will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a foreigner before him, and the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to their children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready of people prepared for the Lord. John's ministry was simply to point people forward to the coming of the offspring of the woman, the Messiah. And so the media of Elizabeth and Mary was more as I said, in the meeting of two pregnant Jewish women. Lucas telling us that this meeting, listen was a great turning point in the history of redemption. Luke's account of the meeting between Elizabeth and Mary emphasizes the superiority of Jesus over John. These, the meeting of these two pregnant mothers anticipates the transition from the old covenant to the New Covenant. Who is Elizabeth, she is old, advanced in here's chapter one, verse seven, and she is pregnant with the last Old Covenant Prophet John the Baptist. John would be the last and final of Old Covenant prophets, who in a long line over centuries had been crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord. But Mary, on the other hand, she's not old, she's young. And in her womb is the long awaited Promised Messiah who had come to inaugurate the new covenant in his blood. Because at the end of Luke's gospel, he says, Luke 2220, this cup, which is poured out for you, is the new covenant in my blood. And so here's how one author writes, he says, In Elizabeth's womb, was an old covenant prophet who would proclaim the Mosaic law, but in Mary's womb, was the one who would fulfill that law by his obedience and death, bringing eternal life to all those who trust in Him. This is a great turning point in the history of redemption, this miraculous conception of Jesus Galatians four, four, Paul says, was the fullness of time that had now come, for God to fulfill his promise from Genesis 315. Mary Elizabeth's meeting is the union of promise and fulfillment. This the Messiah enters the world in the womb of this young, obscure Jewish virgin and the New Covenant Jesus comes to the Old Covenant John and the Old Covenant, John submits in his mother's womb with joy to the New Covenant Jesus. This is what John says in John chapter three, verse 30, He must increase, but I must decrease. John is saying the Old Covenant shadows that I have come to represent must now give way to the coming new reality that has come in Jesus who is the champion offspring of the woman. I must go away because he is fulfilling what I've been pointing people to. And so in verse 45, liquid Mary does she concludes with this final blessing. She says to a relative In verse 45, bless it is she who believed because there will be a fulfillment? Do you see that? Because there will be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord. There will be a fulfillment. Do you understand how hopeful that is to all of us, there will be a fulfillment. He is the God of promise, and the God of performance. He always performs faithfully what he promises to do for us. So Mary is blessed because the Lord is going to fulfill all his promises to her what were those promises? We just read them in Luke chapter one, verses 31 through 36. And so we see this keynote of BLESS give an emphasis in the song of Elizabeth, Elizabeth is moved by the Holy Spirit and she emphasizes that Mary has come under the Lord's favor. Why? Because the Lord is faithful and bringing about the fulfillment of His promises. And what does Mary do very believes God's promises, chapter one, verse 38, behold the bond slave of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word. God has been faithful to fulfill his promise, initially given in Genesis 315, to Mary. And Mary believes God's promise that she will be the bearer of this long away to champion offspring, the serpent Crusher, and how does she receive this rich blessing this failure from God through faith alone? Sola feeding, the hope that every mother in Israel possessed and looked for will be fulfilled, there will be a fulfillment of what has been spoken to marry by the Lord. God is faithful. And so as we reflect on the song of Elizabeth this morning, we learned that God's blessing is rich, for those who believe in His promises. This This emphasis of blessing over and over God bless his his people through his promises. So listen, like Elizabeth, we are greeted with good news. We are greeted with this gospel announcement that God has visited us in order to save us from our sins. And then like Mary, we too are blessed because the God who has promised fulfills what he's promised to do for us, and we receive this blessing through faith alone. We are blessed through faith alone, who and the son who was miraculously conceived in the womb of Mary. Why because he is the one who has come to fulfill the law, by His obedience and his death and thereby bring blessing eternal life to all who trust in Him. This is what the Apostle Paul says in Romans chapter four, verses seven through eight. He says through faith alone and Mary son, we are blessed. We are counted righteous before God. And he says, Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessing is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account. We are blessed. Jesus has this champion offspring of the woman who has come and crushed the serpent's head and given us victory over sin and death, and the devil he has come to bless us. He has come to bring us under the favor of God by reconciling us to God through His life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension. And so I Lizabeth this morning, we also rejoice in worship and the incarnate Son of God who came in Mary's womb and, and let's pray. Father, we thank you for the faithfulness of your promise. We thank you that you have faithfully fulfilled your promise to us we who are deeply sinful and fallen, flawed creatures. You have been faithful. You have been kind, you have been good, overflowing and generosity to us. You have kept your promise. And you have saved us by sending your son this champion Redeemer. May we be like Elizabeth this morning overwhelmed with the reception of this good news and like John leaping for joy
and maybe be like Mary who believed the promises you made to her and receive Christ and all of His saving benefits through this table this morning
through this visible gospel. So come we pray and fulfill your promises to us and give us Christ. today. We pray this name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.