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Final Preparations - 2012-12-23

Final Preparations - 2012-12-23

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Published by John Partridge

As the curtain rises on Christmas, the players move to their places. Each year we remember the story, but do we remember the purpose of the story?

As the curtain rises on Christmas, the players move to their places. Each year we remember the story, but do we remember the purpose of the story?

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Published by: John Partridge on Dec 23, 2012
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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09/17/2013

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“Final Preparations”
December 23, 2012
Micah 5:2-5aHebrews 10:5-10Luke 1:39-55
When I was in elementary school, junior high and high school I was in several plays and musical productionsand in college, one of my roommates was involved in the theater. Whether it is a band concert, a musical or a play, there is a lot that has to happen behind the scenes before the curtain goes up. There are months of  preparations and planning (and the bigger the production, the earlier they have to start – our Perry Band is planning a trip to Disney nearly a year from now and the planning is already well advanced), supplies to beordered, schedules made, months of rehearsal and practice, tickets and programs to be printed, advertising to be designed, purchased and placed and on and on. But no matter how much you plan, and prepare… and practice, in those last days and even in the last moments before the curtain rises on opening day, there will be aflurry of frantic activity, a burst of final preparations that need to be made, actors rushing to their places, thesecond clarinets who lost their music, props that suddenly went missing, special effects that need to be loadedat the last minute, whatever it is there is always a list of last minute things that just have to happen. As we readthe story of Christmas we find some similarities to these preparations.We already know that God began planning for this day from the beginning of time and we know that Godannounced his intensions to the world more than eight hundred years before the birth of the savior. The planshave been made, God has been guiding the course of human events to bring about this world changing event,and although no one has forgotten their music, there remain some last minute details that will require God’sattention. We begin by remembering the prophecy. In
Micah 5:2-5a
we hear these words…
 But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,though you are small among the clans of Judah,out of you will come for meone who will be ruler over Israel,whose origins are from of old,from ancient times.”
3
Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son,and the rest of his brothers returnto join the Israelites.
4
 He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the L
ORD
 ,in the majesty of the name of the L
ORD
his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatnesswill reach to the ends of the earth.
5
 And he will be our peace.
Micah writes these words about the coming Messiah sometime between 750 and 686 years before the curtainrises on the birth of Jesus. Here he proclaims that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem, that he will be ashepherd to his people, that his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth and that he will be the peace of the people of God.1
 
And just before the curtain rises the actors begin to move toward their places. In
Luke 1:39-55
, Mary visitsher relative Elizabeth…
39
 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea,
40
where she entered  Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.
41
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
42
 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!
43
 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
44
 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.
45
 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
 Mary’s Song 
46 
 And Mary said:“My soul glorifies the Lord 
47 
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48
 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49
 for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name.
50
 His mercy extends to those who fear him,from generation to generation.
51
 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52
 He has brought down rulers from their thronesbut has lifted up the humble.
53
 He has filled the hungry with good thingsbut has sent the rich away empty.
54
 He has helped his servant Israel,remembering to be merciful 
55
to Abraham and his descendants forever,just as he promised our ancestors.”
56 
 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.
Elizabeth somehow knows that a) Mary is pregnant even though it was probably not outwardly obvious (andthere was no Facebook, Twitter, or telephone gossip) and b) that Mary’s child is indeed the child that has been promised by the prophets for eight hundred years and whose birth was longed for by nearly every livingresident of Israel. Mary realized what is happening to her is real and she sings about God’s mercy and promises, how God has dealt harshly with the rich and the powerful and has watched over the welfare of the poor and the humble. Mary proclaims that God has remembered his promises to Abraham and to Israel andshe knows that the child within her is the answer to many of those promises.Of course, Mary returns home from her visit with Elizabeth and then must travel with Joseph to Bethlehem for the census even though she is only days away from giving birth. Can you imagine how frightened Mary musthave been? She is young, perhaps as young as twelve years old, she is with a man that she barely knows, perhaps travelling with members of Joseph’s family, people she has never met before, to a place she may havenever been, by the order of a foreign government that ruled through violence and oppression. Mary and Joseph2
 
will arrive in their places just in time for the curtain to rise on a new chapter in human history. God has knownfor centuries where the Messiah will be born, but I have to imagine that Mary was at wit’s end and frightenedhalf out of her mind. Through it all, however, Mary rests on the promises of God and trusts that God will keephis promises to her and to the people of Israel.But as much wonder and beauty as we find in the Christmas story, we must not allow ourselves to lose sight of the meaning of the drama. Musicals and plays are written for a purpose, they tell a story, sometimes they aremeant only to entertain but sometimes they are meant to educate or to make a point of some kind. This drama,this reality, was set in motion for a purpose. As we prepare for our celebration of the birth of Jesus we mustremember the purpose of his coming.In
Hebrews 10:5-10
, the Apostle Paul writes…
5
Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offeringsyou were not pleased.
Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll— I have come to do your will, my God.’”
8
 First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law.
9
Then he said, “Here I am, I havecome to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second.
10
 And by that will, we have been madeholy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Jesus said,
“Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll - I have come to do your will, my God.”
Jesus’ arrival on earth, as wonderful and as beautiful as it is, is only the beginning of the story and not the end.The arrival of the Messiah is not the purpose of the drama, but only the first act. Before the drama would end,Jesus Christ would do the will of God and become the final, ultimate sacrifice for sin so that we might all bemade pure and holy before a perfect, pure and holy God.You can’t giftwrap a better present than that.Merry Christmas.3

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