On Sunday we looked at two Christmas stories. These two stories are very similar, both people receive amazing promises, have an encounter with an angel, and have some amazing desires met. The difference between the two stories is in the responses of the two people.
The first, Zechariah is promised to receive a special child from the Angel Gabriel. This is an amazing thing, and something he has been hoping for. But because his heart isn’t ready, he is unable to fully receive the promise. His response to Gabriel is “how will I know this will happen?”. He essentially asks, what more proof will there be that this promise will actually come to be? And Gabriel turns to him and essentially simply states, “The fact you are talking to an angel of God should be enough proof”. The point is that for Zechariah his initial response was a bit of reluctance, of hesitancy, of doubt.
The very next story though shows a bit of a different response. The angel Gabriel shows up to Mary and gives her a very similar promise. That she too would bear a son but that this son would be the Messiah. What an amazing promise! Her response though is very different from Zechariah’s, she says, “I am willing to accept whatever God wants”. Her response is willingness.
So we ended asking the question if God were to show up today – what would be your response to him? Would it be reluctance or acceptance? Would it be doubt or willingness?
I think this is an important question to ask because I believe we’d like to be like Mary – responding with acceptance and willingness. The trouble is the longer we wait for God’s promises the more difficult it is to respond with Mary. We start to base our hopes on our expectations, rather than on God’s ability to do the impossible. We start to base our hopes on our reality, rather than God’s.
So we ended with this challenge on Sunday. Let’s prepare our hearts for God’s arrival. Jesus is coming; that’s what Advent is all about. So let’s prepare our hearts so that when he comes we can respond like Mary, with willingness and acceptance.
The only way to prepare our hearts to be able to be like Mary, I think, is to simply get closer to God. The closer we are to God the more likely we can respond rightly to God. So this week focus on getting closer to Jesus. Spend time with him in prayer, in conversation, in closeness and let that start to prepare your heart for his arrival. Advent is a time of preparation, so let’s prepare for Jesus because one thing is sure. He is coming, so let’s be ready.
Big Idea We need to have willing hearts
- Advent a time of waiting but also preparing.
- We couch our expectations in our version of reality
- Zechariah has based his life on what he thought is possible
- We can be so unprepared in our hearts and minds, that we don’t even believe the promise and struggle to receive it.
- In Zechariah’s response there is reluctance, in Mary’s there is willingness
- What would be your response -willingness, or doubt?
- We need to prepare our hearts to accept the impossible.
- We need to have willing hearts.
- Get close to God
Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new?
What have you been waiting for? Would you say you are ready to receive it? What might be your response today to Jesus’ arrival in your life? How can you get closer to Jesus this week? What will you do this week?
Discussion Questions for Young Families: This week simply watch your kids. Give them something exciting, something great, and watch how easily they receive it. Kids have a natural way of receiving good things without questioning it. Why not learn from them this week.
Challenge for this Week: Get close to Jesus.