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"A Tale of Two Faiths"
Comparing Zacharias and Mary at the First Christmas

By Missionary Craig Ledbetter
Bible Baptist Church of Blarney, Ballincollig Cork, Ireland

Text:  Luke 1:5-2:7

I.  Introduction:

A. Every time I look at the Christmas story, I see so much to learn from it. I love the Bible for that reason alone - that even if you examine the same passage of Scripture over and over, you will learn something more from it each time than you did before!

B. Comparisons are great ways to learn - Book of Proverbs uses it a great deal. Throughout the rest of the Bible, it is one of the main methods of teaching truth.

C. There is an unusual comparison given in the Bible in Luke chapter 1 between a very old couple, and a very young girl. They both have two very different kinds of faith, and result in two very different kinds of events. Both events are the foundation for Christmas itself. Christmas is a spiritual event, and if we could do some comparing, we could experience the magic of that first Christmas over and over!

D. This is a Tale of Two Faiths, and the challenge to live up to the one that works!

II. Message - A Tale of Two Faiths (Luke 1:5-2:7)

    A. Their Maturity - Let's look at the age of these two people, and their maturity

            1. Zacharias was a mature believer (1:5,6) - an old man; many years
                a devote believer in God and His word - lots of experience as a
                disciple of the Lord

            2. Mary was a young believer (1:27) - not much experience as a disciple.
                She was maybe 16 or 17 years old!
 
            3. Question is: How old do you have to be to have faith in the Lord?
                How old do you have to be to trust the Lord like Prov 3:5,6 says?

            4. It sure looks like Zacharias has the advantage here doesn't it? If anyone
                should have sure, firm, and confident faith in the word of God, it
                should be Zacharias!

     B. Their Companions - What were their companions like? What kind of people did
            these two hang around with?

            1. Zacharias

                a. Had a faithful wife who had the same heart and mind for God as her
                    husband (1:6) - how wonderful to have other people around who have
                    confident faith and assurance in God - can encourage you when down
                b. Had a great fellowship of other believers that looked up to them (1:10)

            2. But Mary was alone (1:27; Mt 1:18,19) - her fiancé did not have the same
                "faith" as herself at first. Mary had no one she could talk to. Mary would
                have to go this alone at least part of the way - by-the-way: there is nothing
                wrong with THAT!

    C. Their Calling - What was their life purpose? What were they doing with their lives?

            1. Zacharias gave his life to serve God - to be busy doing something for God
                (1:6,8-10) instead of only being caught in the rat-race, and downward
                cy-cles - that's what God showed me to draw me to preach!

            2. Mary also gave her life to serve God (1:48) - to be busy for Him -
                a hand-maiden was someone who waited on someone hand and foot
                - a servant! Mary saw no problem with being called a servant!
 
            3. What is YOUR calling? What are you doing with YOUR life? Is
                it possible that God is not involved in your life because you won't
                involve your life in the Lord's work? You are too busy to do anything
                for Him?!!

    D. Their Foundation - What was their faith going to be founded upon?

            1. Zacharias heard from God (1:11). The New Testament was being written
                first in their ears, and later onto the pages of this Book! God was making

                a promise to Zacharias, and had sent the highest angel to relay that promise!

            2. Mary heard from God as well (1:26-28)
 
            3. Do you realize that God has sent all His promises through His Son Jesus
                Christ (2 Cor 1:19,20), and recorded them in a Book so that ALL of us
                can have a sure foundation!

    E. Their Fear - Would these two be calm, cool, and collected about it all?

            1. Zacharias was afraid of what was happening in his life (1:12,13). All
                this talk about having children, and seeing angels was too much for him.
                He had a nice, consistent "faith" that he didn't want to interfere with!
                He had a lot to lose.

            2. Mary was afraid of God showing up in her life too (1:29,30), but she
                had nothing to lose! Her fear was just being in the presence of God,
                which is right and proper!

            3. Fear is not a bad thing - it is when you stay afraid, even after you know
                it is the Lord (John 6:16-21). Every Christian is afraid of what they don't
                know and don't understand, but the more they learn, and understand from
                this Book, the less fears they have, and the more they can face the other
                un-knowns of life - like being a gospel witness (how to do it?).

    F. Their Focus - What is the center of attraction at this first Christmas?

            1. For Zacharias

                a. The focus of attention was not upon himself, or even on his wife, 
                    but rather on the child (1:13-15) - HE shall be great, not YOU!

                b. The focus was also upon the spiritual needs of the people - to be
                    turned back to God (1:16) - the need to be saved

            2. For Mary

                a. The focus of attention was not upon herself, but rather upon the
                    Child (1:31-33) - HE shall be the Son of God
                b. The focus also was upon the soon coming kingdom who would
                    rule fi-nally and forever (1:33)

            3. Everybody has missed this - we want our faith to be all about US!
                But God has other ideas! We want Christmas to be all about "What
                am 'I' going to get?" and "Where is MY present?" and "Is this ALL
                there is?" Oooooooh!

            4. If the center of attraction in your home most of the year is that TV
                idiot box, and 96FM, then you need a good sledge-hammer!

            5. If the center of attraction at Christmas time is your tree, and all the
                gifts un-der it, or even the kids around it, then you need a good hand
                saw, and a charity bag to put all the gifts into because you have missed
                Christmas!

    G. Their Challenge - How will these two respond to God's word?

            1. Zacharias struggles to decide whether he will believe this is possible
                or not (1:18). In all his years, he has never really had answered prayer,
                and all of a sudden God says it is happening. But, can it? With everything
                that is against Zacharias (age, impotency, no census statistics to show
                that it has ever hap-pened before, etc.).

                a. He questions God, but without any faith - just figures it is impossible
                b. He rejects the promises of God as being for someone else - someone
                    who was more likely to actually     experience it "normally!"
                c. This is what modern religious "christianity" is like (2 Tim 3:1,5)!

            2. Mary struggles to believe all this is possible (1:34)

                a. She questions, but in hope and expectation - knows it is quite possible!
                    She may not have a lot of experience, but she knows the God of that
                    Book can do ANYTHING!

Ge 18:14  Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.

Nu 11:23  And the LORD said unto Moses, Is the LORD'S hand waxed short? thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not.

Jer 32:17  Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee:

Jer 32:27  Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?

Mt 19:26  But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is im-possible; but with God all things are possible.

Lu 18:27  And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possi-ble with God.

                b. She accepts God's ability and power in her life

            3. Faith is not easy. Nor does it just "flow" naturally - there is always a
                strug-gle with doubt, and experience, and the mind. Faith just finally
                settles that if God said it, that settles it!

     H. Their Compensation - Pay-back; Reward for the different kinds of faith:

            1. Zacharias is rewarded with silence (1:19,20). He has to struggle to be
                no-ticed for the next 9 months - can't make a sound!

            2. Mary is rewarded with song (1:35,38, 48-56) - she can't keep her
                mouth shut! That is demonstrated by David as he wrote the Psalms
                - his struggle produced greater faith which resulted in a continuous
                flow of praise!

            3. Maybe you don't have any song because your faith is a constant denial,
                and rejection of God in your life! Your spirituality is measured by your
                ability to SING and SPEAK-UP about what God is doing in your life!

    I. Their Conclusion -

            1. Zacharias is surprised that it happens just like God said it would (1:24,25).
                He didn't go around announcing what God had promised him - even after
                Elisabeth got pregnant, they didn't dare live like God was "actually" going
                to fulfill His promise to them! That would be just "too much" for their
                re-finements! Notice that when John is born in 1:57,58, it is only THEN
                that all the neighbors hear about the baby - they really are surprised!

            2. Mary is only in suspense waiting for it to happen "just as God said
                it would" (1:38; 2:6,7)! That's how I want to be!

            3. You know, I really think there will be a lot of surprised people in heaven!
                People who instead of living in suspense, looking forward to the fulfillment
                of God's promises, they live in confusion, and anxiety! It should come as
                no surprise to Christians when God answers prayer, or calls them to serve Him

III. Conclusion -

    A. How is YOUR Maturity? Not "age" but firmness of faith!

    B. What Companions do YOU hang around with? Your family? This church?
        Or just schoolmates, and that stupid TV? Maybe not many Christians around,
        well, make sure your faith is not dependent upon others - just upon God!

    C. What is YOUR Life's Calling? Don't be too busy to do something!

    D. What is YOUR Foundation? Sand or the Rock Jesus Christ? Do you HAVE
        God's word? Do you believe it, or only carry it around?

    E. What Do YOU Fear? Are you like Zacharias, and fear God interfering, or
        like Mary, fearing the presence of God?

    F. What is YOUR Focus - What is the center of attraction in your Christmas?
 
    G. Here is YOUR Challenge - Believe God's word

            1. To be truly saved!

            2. To be secure

            3. To be used of God in a miraculous way! No matter how impossible!

    H. Beware of the Compensation - Pay-back; Reward for the different kinds
        of faith: it might be silence, or it could be an unstoppable SONG!

    I. What's the Conclusion - Live in expectation not constant amazement!
        Get to know that God will do what He promises - it may not be what
        WE want, but it will be miraculous, and it will do the job - and that for eternity!

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