The beauty of the new songs written through the lives of the people at the very first Christmas are is the same beauty of the new songs the Lord longs to write in our lives today - this Christmas.
Well, hello, hello. My name is Odalis. I’m part of the Pastoral and Worship teams here at Cornerstone SF and happy almost Christmas. Uh, I don’t know about you, but I had high hopes of decorating before Thanksgiving, and then that didn’t happen. So we managed to drive down to the only Costco in the Bay
selling Christmas trees. Yes. We’re Costco people and proud of it. Um, but they had, by the time we got there after Thanksgiving, they had maybe 10 really scraggly looking trees left. And we got, we got the best one that they had, which we feel pretty good about. Uh, took it home and decorated it now with the smell of the pine and the lights.
The, the feeling of Christmas at home. I’m planning on keeping this tree up as long as my husband doesn’t go crazy about it and the dog doesn’t attack it. I just love the feeling at home with the tree. Um, and speaking of Christmas, I’m looking forward to getting to share today, sitting together with this message called, “Thankful for the New Song.”
As a worship leader here in our church, I have the distinct privilege of helping to organize and oversee the literal songs we sing here. As people we are created to worship, we all worship something. And as PT always says, we become like the things that we worship. And the songs that we engage on Sunday mornings, whether we’re here online, or we make it to the live service over at Riordan, uh, they’re more than just music.
They’re a- an alignment of our hearts back to the Lord. And of course we spend most of our time outside of church, the same thing is true when we worship at home, when we worship in the car, when we worship, uh, doing chores at home or working out or gardening or whatever we’re doing. We’re aligning our hearts back to God, declaring the truth and the beauty of who He is over our lives and worship is a pivotal part of how God has worked in my life to breathe in.
trust and healing and faith, and really the knowledge of who He is. Worship has been tied to it through songs and through music. God has worked a new song into my life. Something that’s redemptive and hopeful, where there was no hope and at Christmas, there’s something beautifully appropriate about digging deeper into the, of course the celebration.
Yes. All of that, but also to consider the songs, the songs in the Christmas story and the songs of our lives that invite the Prince of Peace. Um, and so as we’re talking today, I’m not talking about new songs, like Adele’s new album, because that’s heartbreaking. And if you need a good cry, please enjoy the whole album top to bottom.
It’s a masterpiece, but I need more specifically the songs and the biblical account of Christmas. When we think about Christmas, it can be easy to forget that these were real people walking through real and incredible moments, experiencing profound change change is when I think about the Christmas story, it feels more like a fairy tale, you know, a peaceful manger
scene, I mean, shepherd’s gathered around a bright star in the sky. Faithful, humble, Mary, you know, attending to the baby and protective good man, Joseph attending to his family and the wise men that traveled from afar with luscious gifts and all those things are true, but it was probably messier and it was not at all as idealic as sort of the fairy tale manger scene’s
sound. It happens to regular people like you and me. And so it’s good for us to stretch our imaginations, to consider the events that surround Christmas as history and not story. It helps us to, to celebrate the song sung, to absorb the meaning of those melodies and the history, not the story, the history behind them.
And the beauty of the new songs written through the lives of those at the first Christmas and the new songs in our lives is that it’s always based on who God has always been. It’s not a secret. It’s not even really that much of a mystery because God has already showed us who He is through His word, through the scriptures and through Jesus, we just need to lean in and to listen, to catch onto the song He’s already singing.
So I would love before we jump into the scriptures to pray together a prayer of gratitude, which softens our hearts and helps us to be more open to the Lord. So would you join me in. Lord God, we pause before You in gratitude for who You are. And, and for these accounts that we have Lord for Your word, which guides us to You, Lord.
So as we share in, in, in the meal of this word, we ask Holy Spirit for You to meet us. For You to speak to us Lord and for You to help us to catch onto the song that You’re singing. We welcome You in Jesus, and we pray these things in Your beautiful name. Amen. Uh, all right. So unless you’re driving while you’re listening, please grab a Bible or open up the digital handout, uh, to follow along.
We’ll be in Luke. And if you don’t own a Bible, please let us know, send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. And we would love to gift you with one, but we’re going to be in Luke chapter one. Now there are four people at the beginning of Luke who burst into song at the revelation of Jesus, four people plus a group of angels. You know, angels are not people, so we’ll leave them out.
Um, as God works, one step and one person at a time into the knowledge and participation of His unfolding promise, they can’t help, but sing, and to celebrate and acknowledge the wonder and awe of who God is. And in these songs really throughout the gospels, there’s a consistent theme of God working out and showing us what He’s planned all along, always based on His unchanging character.
And as He includes people into His work, He changes their lives in the process. So all we’re going to spend most of our time today with Elizabeth, but we’re going to start with her husband’s Zechariah in order to get some perspective on the couple. Let’s jump in from verse five. In the days of Harod, king of Judea,
there was a priest named Zechariah of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron. Her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous before God walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord, but they had no child because Elizabeth was barren and both were advanced in years.
Skipping ahead to verse 11. Zachariah is at the temple performing his priestly duty. He’s getting to offer incense inside the temple. It’s a big honor. And there verse 11, there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the alter of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him and fear fell upon him.
But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid of Zachariah for your prayer has been heard. And your wife, Elizabeth will bear you a son and you shall call him John.” I want to pause here and I acknowledge the comforting beauty in knowing our prayers are answered by God. We know it head knowledge, God answers prayer, but to acknowledge it as it’s happening in the moment is just beautiful.
And practically, I want to encourage this in the season, especially for those of us who are longing to experience more of God at work in our lives, to be intentional, to make note, as we experience. I’m a big proponent of journaling for this reason, but there are other ways to do it too. A friend of mine used to do daily gratitudes.
So almost every day she would take a scrap of paper and write one thing she was grateful for from that day and stick it in a jar. Then at the end of the year, she would dump them all out of this huge jar. It’s like 300 pieces of paper and look back on them to celebrate and to acknowledge the big blessings, the little kindnesses, the little provisions, big and small alike, to celebrate.
And I tried it one year. I did maybe once a week, if I’m honest, and I was still overwhelmed with awe what God had done, turning it out over at the end of the year and remembering the remembrance of what God has done and seeing how He answered prayer. Um, and so it’s, it’s worth considering again, especially if you’re in that place of wanting to see Him more at work in your
life. So the angel explains this promise from God regarding this future son, who’d be John the Baptist filled with the Holy Spirit pointing people toward the truth of God and the coming Messiah. And Zechariah, awestruck, probably a little frayed, maybe a bit of an overthinker. Like I maybe I’m projecting. Um, but he has a hard time understanding and he asks, uh, from verse 18, Zechariah said to the angel, how shall I know this?
For I’m an old man and my wife is advanced in years. The angel answered him. I’m Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God and I was sent to speak to you to bring you this good news and behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day these things take place because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in there.
time, so the angels has introduced this new thing God is doing based on the context of what God has already done. Zechariah again, offering incense and prayer in the temple on behalf of the people as prescribed by the Lord as part of old Testament worship. Um, he’s there, he has knowledge of the inner of the law of what God has done.
And they’re in that special moment, the angel introduces something he can’t wrap his head around. Even though it’s connected to Old Testament, prophecies and promises he has deep knowledge of. His hesitation and doubt, uh, and, and his sort of refusal to believe without a sign resulted in his silence for probably nine or 10 months.
That’s a long time to be unable to communicate. Going against the grain of our default ways of thinking can actually be a good thing. When we’re experiencing doubt or questions about what we learn about the Lord don’t run away, don’t require proof, but instead press into those places. We were just talking in my small group about this, about these places.
These times when we’re asking questions, the key is asking with a heart to believe rather than one to disprove or like Zechariah need prayer. There’s a difference in motivation and God responds to a heart that’s hungry for him. Sometimes part of how God works a new song into our lives is by changing the way we think and our default reactions.
And it usually happens slowly over a long period of time. But this is where making note of those answered prayers and keeping a track of what we’ve learned of the Lord matters. Why prayer and community life matter, because those are the environments where we gain the perspective and, and we realize, oh, in the past I would have reacted to this whole other way.
I’m, I’m so grateful God for the change, the renewal you’ve worked in my life. Thank you. Now, Zachariah, his reaction was one of questioning in, in, in a bit of unbelief, but Elizabeth pressed in as we’ll see. So, uh, we have to assume Zachariah finishes his service. He makes his way home, and we have to assume that, uh, Zachariah and Elizabeth communicates somehow about all of this. Zechariah is unable to speak, but commentaries, uh, suggest that he would still be able to write and manage some form of communication, maybe signing things out.
Uh, and as a wife, I can vouch for probably Elizabeth’s determination to figure out just what in the world happened to her husband, who was fine when he went to do his service in the temple, and now he comes back and he can’t communicate. She would find out, um, the scriptures tell us that God’s word, through the angel, was kept in Elizabeth from verse 24.
After the, these days, his wife, Elizabeth conceived, and for five months, she kept herself hidden saying, thus, the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me to take away my reproach among the people. Now, Elizabeth, again, she was barren and she was old. So contextually that’s doubly tough for that time period.
But again, this promise that Gabriel communicates is tied back to the Old Testament from the accounts of Abraham and Sarah, both old and barren, and God establishes a promise to them through the birth of their son, Isaac, to, to make it’s the establishment of God’s people in the world. And righteous Zechariah and Elizabeth, as they’re described in those first verses, would have known the history
well. They would have deep familiarity with the Old Testament and connect the dots to what was coming. It’s the buildup as God prepares to launch into the world, a new song based on what He has already done and revealed. The new thing God did gave them joy and gladness bearing the one who would call out, make way, prepare room in your hearts to receive the promise.
It’s a promise alive and well for you and me today as well. A promise Elizabeth grabbed hold of with both hands. And when we’re seeking God to do a new thing in our lives, rooting ourselves in the Lord, building our devotion to him and fostering gratitude, regardless of circumstance, we’ll prepare room in our hearts to receive it.
Zechariah and Elizabeth didn’t allow their extended waiting time to degrade their trust or love in God. As one commentator phrased it this way. “However sore their affliction was. They nevertheless did not allow the disappointment, the disappointed hope to embitter their lives to estrange them from God.”
They nobly accepted the trial with inward resignation and persevered faithfully in service to God. They stayed gritty and they trusted God anyway. Elizabeth’s response to the new thing is one of gratitude and joy. She doesn’t know the whole story yet. She doesn’t know how things will unfold, but based on the life of consistent faith in light of what God reveals to her there, she simply gives thanks and receives it and continues to live aligned with that thanksgiving.
And that’s also what prepares her. When her cousin comes knocking with some also incredible news. A few months later, her cousin Mary, uh, was visited by the same angel announcing that Mary is going to give birth to Jesus the Savior. And Mary makes the trek over to Elizabeth to see her cousin and enters enter the house.
We’ll pick up from verse 41. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy and bless it is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord. This is Elisabeth’s literal song. Um, and, and, and how can we not view this as such a celebration?
It’s a model for us of the, the beauty of responding quickly and joyfully to what we discover in the Lord. It’s a song of acknowledgement and of blessing and of humility. Elizabeth acknowledges the enormity of Mary’s blessing. Can you imagine if she had thought of herself in that moment? If she had been so fixated on her own thing, as wonderful as it was that she missed what was happening in front of her.
I hope this only happens in movies, but let’s, let’s picture it for a moment. Mary shows up at the door. Elizabeth sees her. And it’s probably been a while since they’ve seen each other, but all Elizabeth can think about in her excitement is her own thing. And she grabs Mary by the arm and dragged her in the house.
And talks, talks, talks, talks, talks about how amazing this wonderful new thing is that God’s doing in her life. And she’s so excited. Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. And Mary kind and patient, Mary doesn’t say anything about herself, just supports her cousin and keeps her own news to herself or maybe more negatively.
What if Elizabeth sees Mary and realizes what’s happening, but rather than joy turns to comparison? What if she reacted out of, out of resentment to be, to be pregnant with the Messiah, is, is I know every mother thinks that their baby to come is the biggest deal, but the Messiah is a bigger deal. And what if Elizabeth, instead of compared the two blessings and allowed a bitterness at why all of a sudden is this happening now, and, and of all people to a teenager, who’s got all the time in the world to have her own kids?
I’ve waited decades and decades. And my miracle finally happens. It’s my time. And now, now is when there’s some, there’s still something that’s bigger and more important. What would have been lost in that moment? Not just even there, but then in the relationship of the two women who experienced the miraculous unfolding of God’s plan, the tone of what was ahead, do not allow jealousy or comparison to darken your perspective, fight it viciously in order to protect the song that you are meant to sing.
There is a blessing for us as well, a joy to be had in celebrating the blessing of others. We’re not held hostage to our feelings, just because it begins in us that sense of comparison that can build to jealousy or resentment. It doesn’t mean we are subjected to those things. We are filled with the Holy Spirit, the same as Elizabeth.
She was in that moment of celebration filled with the Holy Spirit and as are we. And when we experienced those things, especially at a time of celebration, like the holidays, but any time turn to prayer. Turn to someone you can trust and ask for a non-judgemental moment of vulnerability to acknowledge and confess and pray for healing and move forward.
Ask the Lord into your heart and mind and celebrate the blessings of others because when we do so we’re celebrating the goodness of God and to get to witness His goodness is a blessing in and of itself. God’s goodness continues to reveal itself throughout the course of our lives. You know, that phrase, um, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
I heard somebody say that phrase and I wanted to smack some optimism into this person. It is a bunch of malarkey and granted. Uh, I’m not an old dog, but we have biblical evidence that God works a new thing. It does not matter the age of the person. Just look at Elizabeth. This woman was not in denial about her reality.
It may well be that she had stopped offering prayers, asking for a child long before this account that we read, but had her heart been closed to a new thing. I’m not sure the Lord would have used her in this way. I heard Pastor Terry say one time that the older we get, we either get harder or softer. We don’t get to stay in the middle.
We don’t get to stay as we once were. And I think Elizabeth committed in love and faith to the Lord to stay soft before Him. And because of that softness and openness, which still leaves us vulnerable to being hurt. God used her. And she was able to realize this new thing that God was doing in her life.
It is never too late to learn a new song to hum a new tune to sync the rhythm of our lives to the Lords. But in order to have that in order to do that, we must stay soft and —- attentive and open. We have an incredible gift in our church. And that is that it’s multi-generational. And I don’t say that diminishing the value of peer relationships, they are vital, but I can say this without any hesitation or pride that I’m a direct beneficiary of the multi-generational gift God has given us.
And I will get on the soap box anyday. For the last decade or more, I’ve been in relationship with people 10, 20, 30 years older than me. And not just acquaintance passing relationship an intentional friendship. Not just learning from, or, or generally respecting managers and people older than me, but different degrees of mentorship and investment.
And I can, I also know how painfully lacking it can be and people who are my age and younger. In the same way we celebrate different cultures and different perspectives and different experiences. Part of our collective song at Cornerstone is a celebration of different generations. And so as we’re searching out what God is doing in our lives, and as we’re pressing into Him as our foundation, the source of our joy consider the types of relationships you have and intentionally seek out intergenerational friendships and mentorship, whether that’s with people older or younger than we are.
Our lives are so much richer and we learn new facets of God. Faithful goodness, when we do so. If you don’t know where to start, join a volunteer team. The story of God working in my life. And I know in so many others in our church started, was strengthened, grew, and flourished within the context of serving in our multi-generational community.
Now Elizabeth’s song and the others in Luke, sort of the original Christmas songs, for lack of a better phrase. They’re not the carols we’re familiar with, but they are the songs sung by those first clued in to the arrival of Jesus, the declaration of the reconciliation and renewal that God had promised.
And He always keeps His word. But speaking of literal songs, and this is church, so it’s family. So I feel like it’s okay for me to admit something. Um, I have, I sort of can’t stand Christmas carols and that’s not great as a worship leader since I helped to pick them out. Um, I was even preparing this message and I turned on the radio and I heard Gloria and I just, literally, before I could even think turned off the radio, there was no intro to the song.
It just busted out into Angels We’ve Heard. And I feel safe admitting this it’s very ear worm-ey, but you just can’t get it out of your head. Um, this is some of this is rooted with a lack of patience of things that get stuck in your head as this inevitably will be now for me. I know. Um, but some of it too is from a place of unfamiliarity and pain out of a discomfort with the holidays and a difficulty celebrating them.
I don’t remember when it started, but for a long time I dreaded the holidays. Too wrapped up in my own wounds to look up, to look out and celebrate, um, praise be to God. It was not the song I was doomed to sing forever. The tune has changed somewhere along the way, God did a new thing in me and change the rhythm of my life, entering the holidays. He rooted in instead of sense of hope and anticipation,
and dare I say it joy at the holidays. Not specifically at gifts as lovely as those are, or specifically at gatherings as memorable as those are, but the whole tone of the season has changed. It’s not just about getting through it anymore. And hearing Angels We’ve Heard as few times as possible. The sense of anticipation that we talk about at Christmas is increasingly real in my heart where it never existed before.
The Christmas story has not changed. It’s exactly the same. God has not changed in order to suit me. Leaning into Him and choosing to seek Him, His renewal in my life has changed me. Opening my hard heart to the beautiful, beautiful truths, these songs, um, the, the, the truth within the songs that used to drive me nuts. That still do sometimes, but I can sing them with genuine love and joy because the meaning of the song has changed in me.
This is a small example of experience, newness, not just to literal songs, but to the, the song of my heart, the song of my life. And I’ve experienced Him do it in the deepest places of my heart. The scriptures talk about if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. The old has passed away and the new has come.
This is the hope that we celebrate at Christmas. This new thing that came with His birth and through His life and death and resurrection, and what’s continually promised to us until He returns. This is what Jesus does in us. In the most downtrodden areas of our hearts. It’s not just a head knowledge.
It’s a life of transformation, whole life transformation. God determined to come down to be a friend to us, more than a friend to teach us, to drop our differences and drop our brokenness and choose a new way of seeing and singing the new life that’s in us. This again is where community matters so much because we can encourage each other with our songs.
It’s not just for ourselves that He does it.. To help each other. And sing of what God has done. We sing literal songs, worship songs, Christmas carols, together, which connects our hearts to the Lord. And reorients our hope around who He is. And in the context of community, without each one song we miss out, like if in, in a.
Choir of 20 people. There’s only two that sing. It’s not the same. We miss the harmony. We miss, we just miss the color that’s in it. CS Lewis, phrase it this way. If all experienced God in the same way and returned him an identical worship, the song of the church triumphant would have no symphony. It would be played like an orchestra in which all instruments played
the same note. You have a story that matters a song to sing, and the symphony is not the same without it. May the Lord get into even the deepest, most difficult places of our hearts and work His renewal, embed His hope and breathe a new song into us. May we always pause to give Him thanks to acknowledge Him as he does?
Not because He needs it, but because it solidifies it in us. In a moment, the band is going to share a song that celebrates the joy of Christmas. And the opportunity is ours to turn to the Lord and to ask Him to make His hope as tangible in our hearts, as it was in the hearts of those whose stories we looked at today.
This is also our time of giving, as we pause to give thanks and express our faithfulness to Him as we’re considering year end giving. Um, for those of us who feel that this is our church home and our church family, as we’re looking forward by faith, uh, we want to encourage you to partner for the future and make cornerstone a priority.
Um, but I would just love to pray and invite in the hope of God, the newness of what He does into our hearts. Would you, would you join me in prayer. Lord God, we thank You that anyone who is in Christ as a new creation Lord, that You don’t leave us consigned to the old ways of doing things. Our old ways of being You don’t leave us to the things that have no life in them.
But the story of You coming is to breathe life and life abundant into the people who would call on Your name, who would cast all of their hope on You and seek You out. Jesus, our Prince of Peace, God with us, our Savior. Lord and so we welcome You in with grateful hearts. Maybe not at our circumstances, although if we can give thanks for those we do.
But regardless of circumstance we give thanks for who You are. For the wonder of Your arrival, Jesus, at that Christmas, as well as the hope anticipation of Your arrival to come. Lord, as we share in this . Song, would You embed Your hope into our hearts and begin to give us a clue of the new song You’re working into us.
We love You, and we thank You for this time. Jesus, we pray these things in Your beautiful, peaceful, hopeful, and renewing name. Amen. Okay.