3rd Sunday of Advent LSB #’s 344, 349, 348
Text – Luke 1:59-63
And on the 8th day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. And he asked for a writing tablet & wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered.
Have you heard of the boy, just 6-years-old, who announced one day, “I’m running away from home!”?
His parents asked, “What will you do when you run out of food?” “That’s easy,” he said, “I’ll come home for more.” “What will you do when you run out of money?” “That’s easy,” he said, “I’ll come home for more.” “What will you do when your clothes get dirty?” “That’s easy too,” he said, “I’ll come home for more.”
The dad turned to the mom & said, “This kid isn’t running away from home. He’s going to college!”
Did you know that people of all ages are running away from home, & this in record numbers? The pain of sick families is so great that people will run almost anywhere to experience love & acceptance. Husbands run to bars or go on achievement binges. Women run to extramarital relationships that offer a listening ear, a loving touch, or more.
Some children run from their family pain which so infects them, that later on in their 20’s & 30’s, an awful sickness wells up inside. Then their entire life is up for grabs.
This sermon series is titled “Family Life.” We began last Wednesday with Zechariah & Elizabeth. Remember their devastating circumstances? Longing to have children, they could not. While friends & relatives delighted in children & grandchildren, Zechariah & Elizabeth had nothing but shattered hopes & dashed dreams. There must have been times when each of them simply wanted to run away. Homes can be tough places, can’t they? Someone once said that marriage goes through three stages. “The Happy Honeymoon,” “The Party’s Over,” & “Let’s Make a Deal.”
Maybe your conflict concerns money; there is just never enough. Or raising children; you’re either too strict or too lax. Or where you’re going on vacation next summer: “We always go where you want to go!” And, let’s be honest, the approaching holidays can make for some very trying family times.
Family conflict, though, is not the issue. I’m going to repeat that. Family conflict is not the issue. How we handle family conflict – now that is the issue!
When conflict strikes our 1st option is my way. “Let me make this clear. This marriage is all about my agenda, my needs & my wants. After all, I’m always right & you’re always wrong. That’s why my way is the best way, so my way is the only way. And if you don’t like my way then guess what? You can hit the highway!”
Then there is no way. I back away. I ignore the problem & avoid it at all costs. I use discussion killers like, “Oh, grow up!” or, “Give me a break!” or, “I can’t believe you’re making such a big deal out of this!” Nothing is ever resolved because I kill every discussion. I won’t engage. I run to my room & lock the door. Solve this conflict? “No way!”
Another option is your way. I give in, roll over & play dead. I give in to your way. There’s an epidemic in America called the passive, detached husband & father. At an alarming rate more & more men are becoming detached, distant & disengaged. They shrug their shoulders & say, “Fine! Have it your way!”
Zechariah & Elizabeth, though, decided on another way. And what is that? That would be our way. “On the 8th day they came to circumcise the child, & they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, but his mother spoke up & said, ‘No! He is to be called John.’ They said to her, ‘There is no one among your relatives who has that name.’ Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child” (Lk 1:59–62).
Zechariah had doubted the angel Gabriel’s promise that God would give him a son, so Gabriel told him he would not be able to speak until after his son’s birth. So for 9 months Zechariah was unable to speak to anyone. This has got to be a pastor’s greatest fear!
Then, when his son was born, in the midst of all of the hullabaloo regarding his son’s name, Zechariah “asked for a writing tablet, & to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, ‘His name is John’” (Lk 1:63). Amazing! When it came to naming their son, for Zechariah & Elizabeth it wasn’t my way, no way, or your way. It was our way.
Our way means I care about solving our problem. (What are we going to name our son?) But I especially care about healing our relationship. Our way attacks the issue. It does not attack the person. It emphasizes reconciliation, not resolution & there’s a big difference. Reconciliation means my 1st priority is our relationship.
And why is that? You are more important than our problems. Let me say that again. You are more important than all of our problems. Don’t get me wrong. We don’t bury the issue. But we bury the hatchet. We keep talking about the issue, but we talk about it together. We can disagree agreeably. We can walk arm in arm without seeing eye to eye.
Why did both Zechariah & Elizabeth insist on naming their son “John”? Because that’s what the angel said in Luke 1:13. “John” means “The Lord is gracious.” The angel told them to name their son “John” because in the midst of their conflict the only way Zechariah & Elizabeth would get to our way would be through God’s way; & God’s way is the way of grace.
Because of grace God gives us new life, forgiven life, and eternal life. John 1:16 says
that God is full of grace. Romans 6:14 says we are “under grace.” Ephesians 2:9 says we are saved by grace, & 1 Peter 5:10 calls our God, “the God of all grace.” Hebrews 4:16 says that God’s throne is a throne of grace, while James 4:6 says, “God gives more grace.” Grace reconciles us to God. Grace reconciles us to each other.
On December 17, 1903, Orville & Wilbur Wright got their flying machine off the ground. The airplane was born! In their excitement, they sent a telegraph to their sister Katherine. It said simply, “Flew 120 feet. Will be home for Christmas.”
When Katherine got the news, she ran to the local newspaper in Dayton, Ohio & showed the telegraph to the editor. He glanced at it & said, “How nice, the boys will be home for Christmas.” He completely missed the point! Yes, it was nice that the boys would be home, but a person had flown an airplane for the 1st time. That was big news!
How often do we miss the big news at Christmas? Too easily we get caught up in the tinsel & toys, the trees & the trimmings. Those things are nice just like it was nice that the Wright brothers would be home for Christmas, but that’s not the big news. The big news of Christmas is that God took flight & traveled from heaven to earth.
The Word became flesh & dwelt among us! And He did it to show us the full meaning of grace. “John” means “the Lord is gracious,” but Jesus is the Lord of grace. When it comes to grace, Jesus nailed it perfectly!
Yet, before the nails, He wanted to run away. Three times in the garden of Gethsemane Jesus asked His Father to remove the cup of suffering. But the Father did not. Jesus’ human nature was feeling the pressure of the temptation to reject this mission He was on. Finally He resisted the temptation went willingly to the cross.
Jesus went to Calvary where He took upon Himself all of our sin – including those sins
we have committed against family members. After rising on the 3rd day Jesus now lives as the gracious Lord of heaven & earth. His human flesh, raised from the dead, is now the beginning of the new creation – the new heavens & the new earth.
Forgiven by grace, overflowing with grace, forever in grace, when family conflict comes you & I are empowered to renounce my way, no way, & your way while saying, “Yes” to a better way – God’s way. It’s the way of Zechariah & Elizabeth. And what would that be? You know it, don’t you? It’s… our way. Amen.
Hark the glad sound! The Savior comes, the Savior promised long; let every heart prepare a throne & every voice a song. He comes the broken heart to bind, the bleeding soul to cure, & with the treasures of His grace to enrich the humble poor. Amen. LSB 349:1, 3.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet