Intro: Today's Sermon
1) Scripture discussed in the sermon, Luke 1
2) Commentary, what the pastor said
3) What I thought about the passage
4) What I've thought about the Lord, science and scientists in the past week or so
5) Wrap up, things that are happening at our church
I encourage you to read the short passage before the sermon notes.
Sermon Text: Luke 1:1-25 (NKJV)
1 Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled[a] among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.
The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold
5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.
8 So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.10 And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’[b] and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
18 And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”
19 And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. 20 But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.”
21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he lingered so long in the temple. 22 But when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless.
23 So it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house.24 Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying,25 “Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
Notes from the Sermon
verses 5-7, "There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years."
Zacharias and Elizabeth "walked in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless." But they were also "righteous before God," meaning that they were faithful not just to traditions but to Him. They walked with Him and knew Him.
verse 7, "But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years."
Furthermore, they were faithful, even when life didn't seem to make sense and didn't work out as they had anticipated. God is moving even when we cannot see what He is doing. Faithfulness is a choice. They had the choice to blame God for their childlessness or to do the next right thing and keep trusting that He knew what He was doing.
verses 8-10, "So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense."
Zacharias was serving the Lord as he always did. He was chosen at random to burn incense before the Lord that day, which symbolized the prayers of the people rising to God. In Old Testament times, they believed that the Lord used drawing of lots to indicate whom He wished to serve. Worship should always be a time of anticipation that the Lord will speak to you.
verses 11-12, "Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him."
Isn't it funny that not once the first time an angel appears is his presence comforting. It's incredibly scary. Angels are powerful beings, the Lord's warriors, that do battle. They are intimidating and awe-inspiring. Not perhaps, what we usually think of when we think of them.
verses 13-17, "13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’[b] and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
How many years did Zacharias and Elizabeth pray this prayer to have a child? They probably prayed it so much, they gave up on God answering it and reconciled themselves to the fact that they'd never have children. It had been 400 years since God had spoken to a prophet, when God spoke to Zacharias (often referred to as the 400 years of silence, between Malachi and the announcement concerning John). Sometimes, God seems silent. But He is always working. And in the right time, He answers in ways we didn't expect. God honors faithfulness often in surprising ways. God had been preparing them for this announcement for many years. He had a plan.
verse 17, "He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah..."
What was so important about Elijah? Elijah was the only old testament prophet (besides Elisha) on whom the Spirit of the Lord rested and never left. For most prophets of that time, the Spirit came upon them, then left. Elisha asked for a double portion of what Elijah had. So, the angel is saying that the Spirit would rest on John his entire life. He was to call people back to the Lord. The kingdom of God was about to break forth after 400 years of waiting.
verse 18, "And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”
There are times in our lives that God must take us back to places of deep hurt/woundedness so that He can bring healing. Zacharia was hurt by the Lord's apparent silence and their barrenness. It affected his faith. He knew what was said about the Lord from Scripture, but his faith wavered. Often, what makes our faith waver is the woundedness of our lives, and He has to heal and show us that He is faithful and can be trusted.
verses 24-25, "Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying, 'Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.'”
The Lord took Elizabeth's disgrace away. People wondered why she was barren and had no children. In that time, it was viewed as a curse. However, the Lord showed her that He was not displeased with her and that she was blessed - He showed her and everyone around her. The prayers she and Zacharias had prayed for a child that perhaps they had given up on and forgotten about, God heard and answered. He always moves for our best and His glory.
Perhaps there are prayers you've been praying a long time but God doesn't seem to be answering. That's the moment we have to trust and do the next right thing, keep being faithful. God might be preparing you for the answer.
My Own Thoughts: of the Sermon, Prayer, Life and Science
Largely, these notes speak for themselves. I thought much about how LONG I had prayed to know the Lord, for Him to call me, for Him to remove my doubts about Him, and to help me to hear Him. And yet He finally answered. I could related directly to this message and, perhaps somewhat obviously, I think about this a lot. It's a simple, but powerful truth: the Lord hears and answers prayer and never forgets about us. For some reason, I feel as if I could meditate on this entire message for years and not come to the end of its speaking to me.
What the Lord is doing is not perfect yet. I still have doubts sometimes and I still struggle to hear correctly, but I can now feel His hand on me, helping me with those doubts, giving me better ears and I have confidence that He is working. He started the process three years ago and broke things open in a big way this year. I know He'll finish what He's started.
He's showing me things now I've asked for all my life and that I had almost given up on. When you're a kid of 10 or 11, praying until you are 23 about something seems like an ETERNITY, let me tell you. I thought He would never answer me. I was so anguished. I can't tell you what it means to me, that He did hear. I ache with a gratitude I don't know how to express and never will be able to. Don't ever give up on those prayers you pray for years and years, because God isn't ignoring you. He really is listening, after all.
There are specifics to this story I could mention. One could ask - why do I keep repeating this and what did the Lord do so that I know He hears? At some point, I'll have to go over and collect everything in one place and summarize it. Many things He showed me were in prayer meetings with Esther or with Esther, Judy and some of the other prayer warrior ladies at Oak Hill. Other things were at Emory this year. Some of the things He showed me are general - but most of them, unfortunately - are personal - in that, they relate to me, but I'm not sure how to relate them generally. I'll have to think about that and ask Him if I could be more clear. However, if one asks the Lord about this, I think He will answer each person, to help them hear Him and show them that He answers prayer.
The Lord and Science
It is interesting to me that the Lord can use people in science to teach them specifically about His creation and to bring Him glory. George Washington Carver is proof of that. It is not an isolated event. There have been a lot of well-known believing scientists that the Lord used to revolutionize science, especially around the time of the Reformation. Here's a few of the most well-known, listed below.
I pulled these from the Wikipedia page "List of Christian Thinkers in Science" and chose them for their notoriety, but also, because I knew of the majority of them being believers from other sources I trust (except for Antoine Lavoisier). This just happened to be a convenient way to pull them up all at once. If you're interested in the others, check out the link - though be careful - I saw at least one questionable one.
Occasionally, the list here will give some evidence of their habits as believers, which is nice. I don't consider "so-and-so was a [insert denomination here]" to be adequate evidence. However, to the best of my knowledge, the one's I've included were genuine believers. If not, they had strong religious views. If I find out otherwise in future, I'll shall let you know and correct it.
- Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543): Catholic canon who introduced a heliocentric world view. In 1616, in connection with the Galileo affair, this work was forbidden by the Church "until corrected". Nine sentences representing heliocentricism as certain had to be either omitted or changed. This done, the reading of the book was allowed. Only in 1835 the original uncensored version was dropped from the Index of Prohibited Books.
- Tycho Brahe (1546-1601): Brahe "not only designed and built instruments, he also calibrated them and checked their accuracy periodically. He thus revolutionized astronomical instrumentation." His work is considered to have been essential for the discoveries of Johannes Kepler. Brahe was a Lutheran.
- Francis Bacon (1561-1626): Considered among the fathers of empiricism and is credited with establishing the inductive method of experimental science via what is called the scientific method today. 
- Johannes Kepler (1571–1630): His model of the cosmos based on nesting Platonic solids was explicitly driven by religious ideas; his later and most famous scientific contribution, the Kepler's laws of planetary motion, was based on empirical data that he obtained from Tycho Brahe's meticulous astronomical observations, after Tycho died in 1601. He had wanted to be a theologian at one time and his Harmonice Mundi discusses Christ at points.
- Galileo Galilei (1564–1642): Scientist who had many problems with the Inquisition for defending heliocentrism in the convoluted period brought about by the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. In regard to Scripture, he took Augustine's position: not to take every passage too literally, particularly when the scripture in question is a book of poetry and songs, not a book of instructions or history.
- René Descartes (1596–1650): He was a key thinker of the Scientific Revolution. He did important work on geometry and is honoured by having the Cartesian coordinate system used in plane geometry and algebra named after him. His Meditations on First Philosophy partially concerns theology and he was devoted to reconciling his ideas with the dogmas of Catholic Faith to which he was loyal.[note 3]
- Blaise Pascal (1623–1662): Jansenist thinker;[note 4] well known for Pascal's law (physics), Pascal's theorem (math), and Pascal's Wager (theology).
- Robert Boyle (1627–1691): Scientist and theologian who argued that the study of science could improve glorification of God.
- Gottfried Leibniz (1646–1716): Polymath who worked on determinants, a calculating machine, He was a Lutheran who worked with convert to Catholicism John Frederick, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg in hopes of a reunification between Catholicism and Lutheranism. He also wrote Vindication of the Justice of God.
- Isaac Newton (1643–1727): He is regarded as one of the greatest scientists and mathematicians in history. Newton's study of the Bible and of the early Church Fathers were among his greatest passions, though he consistently refused to swear his allegiance to the church. He wrote Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John. Isaac Newton's religious views are considered by some to be close to deism and several biographers and scholars labeled him as a deist who is strongly influenced by Christianity. However, he differed from strict adherents of deism in that he invoked God as a special physical cause to keep the planets in orbits. [It is difficult for me to believe that Newton was a deist if he read and loved Scripture.]
- Carolus Linnaeus (1707–1778): He is known as the "father of modern taxonomy" and also made contributions to ecology. Natural theology and the Bible were important to his Systema Naturae and Systema Vegetabilium.'
- Daniel Bernoulli (1700–1787): Mathematician and major contributor to the development of Hydrodynamics. The Bernoulli Principle was named after him. 
- Antoine Lavoisier (1743–1794): Is considered the "father of modern chemistry". He is known for his discovery of oxygen's role in combustion, developing chemical nomenclature, developing a preliminary periodic table of elements, and the law of conservation of mass. He was a Catholic and defender of scripture. 
- Luigi Galvani (1737–1798): Is known for his work on animal electricity and research on the nervous system. The electrochemical term galvanization was named after him. He was a Catholic.
- James Clerk Maxwell (1831–1879): Although Clerk as a boy was taken to Presbyterian services by his father and to Anglican services by his aunt, while still a young student at Cambridge he underwent an Evangelical conversion that he described as having given him a new perception of the Love of God.[note 6] Maxwell's evangelicalism "committed him to an anti-positivistposition." He is known for his contributions in establishing electromagnetic theory (Maxwell's Equations) and work on the chemical kinetic theory of gases.
- Gregor Mendel (1822–1884): Augustinian Abbot who was the "father of modern genetics" for his study of the inheritance of traits in pea plants.
- Asa Gray (1810–1888): His Gray's Manual remains a pivotal work in botany. His Darwiniana has sections titled "Natural selection not inconsistent with Natural theology", "Evolution and theology", and "Evolutionary teleology." The preface indicates his adherence to the Nicene Creed in concerning these religious issues.
- Georg Friedrich Bernhard Riemann (1826–1866): The son of a pastor, [note 7] he entered the University of Göttingen at the age of 19, originally to study philology and theology in order to become a pastor and help with his family's finances. Changed to mathematics upon the suggestion of Gauss. He is known for his work surfaces, Riemann sums, and the zeta function.
- James Prescott Joule (1818–1889): He established that the various forms of energy such as mechanical, electrical, and heat were all basically the same and can be converted to one another. This helped develop the first law of thermodynamics and correspondingly the law of conservation of energy. The unit of energy, Joule, was named after him.
- Heinrich Hertz (1857-1894): A German physicist known for electromagnetic radiation and photoelectric effect. The scientific unit of frequency, hertz, is named in his honor. He was a Lutheran all his life.
- Louis Pasteur (1822–1895): Inventor of the pasteurization method, a French chemist and microbiologist. He also solved the mysteries of rabies, anthrax, chicken cholera, and silkworm diseases, and contributed to the development of the first vaccines.
- Lord Kelvin (1824–1907): He gave a famous address to the Christian Evidence Society. In science he won the Copley Medal, the Royal Medal, and was important in Thermodynamics.
- Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937): Guglielmo Marconi was an Italian inventor, known for his pioneering work on long distance radio transmission and for his development of Marconi's law and aradio telegraph system. Marconi is often credited as the inventor of radio, and he shared the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics. Marconi was baptized as Catholic and personally introduced in 1931 the first radio broadcast of a Pope, Pius XI, announcing at the microphone: "With the help of God, who places so many mysterious forces of nature at man's disposal, I have been able to prepare this instrument which will give to the faithful of the entire world the joy of listening to the voice of the Holy Father".
- J. J. Thomson (1856-1940): J.J. Thompson, or Sir Joseph John "J. J." Thomson, was a British physicist who discovered electrons and isotopes. He won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1906 and was President of the Royal Society from 1915 to 1920. Thompson is described as "a regular communicant in the Anglican Church. In addition, he showed an active interest in the Trinity Mission at Camberwell. With respect to his private devotional life, J. J. would invariably practice kneeling for daily prayer, and read his Bible before retiring each night."
- William Henry Bragg (1862-1942): Sir Bragg was a British physicist, chemist, and mathematician who uniquely shared a Nobel Prize with his son William Lawrence Bragg the 1915 Nobel Prize in Physics: "for their services in the analysis of crystal structure by means of X-rays". Bragg was Anglican and had a license to preach at his local church.
- George Washington Carver (1864-1943): George Washington Carver was an American scientist, botanist, educator, and inventor. Carver believed he could have faith both in God and science and integrated them into his life. He testified on many occasions that his faith in Jesus was the only mechanism by which he could effectively pursue and perform the art of science.
- John Ambrose Fleming (1849–1945): In science he is noted for the Right-hand rule and work on vacuum tubes. He also won the Hughes Medal. In religious activities he was President of theVictoria Institute, and preached at St Martin-in-the-Fields.
- Max Planck (1858–1947): He won the 1918 Nobel Prize in Physics and is considered the founder of Quantum mechanics. He had been raised an observant Lutheran and was an elder in his church from 1920 to his death. In 1937 he delivered the lecture, "Religion and Natural Science", stating that both religion and science require a belief in God.[note 8]
- Edward Arthur Milne (1896–1950): British astrophysicist and mathematicians who proposed the Milne model and had a Moon crater named for him. In addition he won several awards including the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society. His last book was Modern Cosmology and the Christian Idea of God.
- Robert Millikan (1868–1953): The second son of Reverend Silas Franklin Millikan, he wrote about the reconciliation of science and religion in books like Evolution in Science and Religion. He won the 1923 Nobel Prize in Physics.
- Wernher von Braun (1912–1977): Braun was "one of the most important rocket developers and champions of space exploration during the period between the 1930s and the 1970s."  He was a Lutheran who as a youth and young man had little interest in religion. But as an adult he developed a firm belief in the Lord and in an the afterlife. He was pleased to have opportunities to speak to peers (and anybody else who would listen) about his faith and Biblical beliefs.
Does it necessarily mean if one is a believer, one will instantly becoming a famous scientist? No. The thought is absurd to me. There are also plenty of famous scientists who were/are not believers, are of other faiths or are atheists. However, I find it comforting that the Lord has used SOME believers as influential scientists in the past, many of whom are responsible for the outlining of foundational concepts in chemistry, physics and biology. During the time of the Reformation especially, there was quite a crop of amazing scientists of this variety. I have often wondered about this. Shortly after that time, it become habitual for people to think that science and God were mutually exclusive. In my opinion, I would say, that is most unfortunate, and science has perhaps had it's own period of 400-500 "years of silence."
I wonder, out of my own curiosity, if the Lord won't raise up another generation of amazing scientists who know Him, love Him and to whom He can teach things. There have always been some. I'd like to see a LOT of them! I'm praying that maybe, the Lord will do this and that I'll get to be a part of it, mentoring such people, or in any way He sees fit. If the Lord wanted to, He could do it. It would be beautiful. And if He wanted to pick a place to show His glory that most people would give up on, it would be science. I think perhaps, He has something like that in mind. Only He knows. One thing I do know - whatever I think the Lord will do - He does something infinitely better and completely other than what I expect.
Today, I read Mark 7, Psalm 8 and Day 34: Raising Up a Remnant, in Draw the Circle. I've posted it previously and I encourage you to read it. My favorite quote is, "At critical junctures in history, God raises up a remnant to reestablish His reign and rule. It's rarely a majority. In fact, it's almost always a small minority. But all it takes is a faithful few to begin a reformation." Call me crazy, but I think the Lord is preparing to do this in many areas and one of them is science.
I'm not talking here about creation/evolution - I'm talking about men and women who love Him, honor Him in all areas of their lives, listen for Him, serving Him in science so that He can use them to glorify His name in science however He might chose, like George Washington Carver. Wouldn't that be exciting? Whatever God is doing, it's much bigger than any one person. I look forward to watching for what He does, praying hard for it to come, and if He sees fit, to join Him in it.