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The Gift Exchange: Hurts for Healing, Barrenness for Fruitfulness Luke 1:5-25

socialmedia@cityrise.org December 13, 2021 sermons, christmas, cityrise, Luke, Roger Patterson, sermon, The Gift Exchange,

The following is a manuscript of the sermon presented by Dr. Roger Patterson on Sunday December 12, 2021 at our Crosspoint Church – Bellaire campus. To view the sermon in full, check out the link below.


It’s almost time for Christmas. And it finally is turning cold…waking up to the low 40s this morning. I love this time of year. And here are a few things I love… that are sort of exclusive to this time of year:

CFA Peppermint Milkshake

Anybody else like this?

Ok…well I won’t tell you the nutritional stats on this then…Well, maybe I will.

This milkshake has:

660 calories

21g of fat

109g of carbs

11g of protein

Oh, my! That’s why I only allow myself one of these a year.

I also love holiday lights.  I love seeing homes lit up, trees lit up, streets lit up.

I saw a story on the news Friday morning…and this is now a thing…Decorating Your House like the Griswolds is now a thing…

And this leads me to a 3rd thing I like at this time of year…Christmas Movies.

Classics like: Home Alone, It’s a Wonderful Life, Elf, Christmas Story, and Christmas Vacation

There are a lot of little things to like about this time of year that I just love.

But, I’m also aware that this isn’t always a “wonderful time of year,” for some. As a matter of fact, this time of year can very hard because it is possibly full of:

  • Grief
  • Heartache
  • Loneliness
  • Unrealized expectations
  • Regret
  • Hurt

And if we aren’t careful, we will live in this disconnect of “Everything being great on the outside, yet withering on the inside.”

As we talk about a gift exchange, today I want us to focus on How God takes our HURT and Bring us HEALING and How he Takes our BARRENNESS and brings forth FRUITFULNESS.

Now, I want to show you something.  When we talk about hurt and barrenness, look at the way the Old Testament closes.

Malachi 4:5-6

Look, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome Day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise, I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

For 400 Years, there is no prophet of God.  It seems as though there isn’t a chapter being turned, but instead a story ended.  It’s a season of barrenness…of hurt…of hopelessness.

Can you imagine being in those generations that had no voice of the Lord in their midst?  From the time of Moses forward, there had been someone to whom the Spirit of the Lord would descend upon as the leader of Israel.  There had been a prophet, a priest, a judge or a king that would stand and speak for the Lord.

Besides Malachi the prophet, the only spiritual offices in the country at this time are priests.  But the priests are corrupt.  The fundamental complaint against them is that the people and priests are in collusion against God.   The priests are accepting sacrifices that are unacceptable.  They are receiving and sacrificing blind animals, lame animals, animals that are not spotless. 

The corruption is rampant, and Malachi calls out the people and the priests for their corrupt and hard hearts.  For 400 years the people are waiting and anticipating the return of the prophet Elijah.

After a brief introduction in Luke’s Gospel, Luke turns the page on Israel’s history with these words…

Luke 1:5-17

5 In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest of Abijah’s division named Zechariah. His wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
6 Both were righteous in God’s sight, living without blame according to all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.
7 But they had no children because Elizabeth could not conceive, and both of them were well along in years.
8 When his division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God,
9 it happened that he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense.
10 At the hour of incense the whole assembly of the people was praying outside.
11 An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense.
12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and overcome with fear.
13 But the angel said to him: Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John.
14 There will be joy and delight for you, and many will rejoice at his birth.
15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord and will never drink wine or beer. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb.
16 He will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God.
17 And he will go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to make ready for the Lord a prepared people.

Blameless, Yet Barren…

I want to spend a moment looking at verse 6 and 7.

Luke 1:6-7

6 Both were righteous in God’s sight, living without blame according to all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.
7 But they had no children because Elizabeth could not conceive, and both of them were well along in years.

Luke is introducing us to two amazing people. Zechariah was a priest. He was on duty at the temple when the angel Gabriel appears to him. Zechariah was in the inner courts, at the table of incense. He had drawn the lucky straw…he was before the Lord offering incense.

It is interesting to note that there were some 18,000 priests, and no priest was permitted to offer incense more than once in his lifetime.

So, here we have Zechariah, a priest, on duty at the temple, and the lot fell to him to offer the incense in the inner chamber…it wasn’t the holy of holies, but it was inside away from the general population.

It was here, in this once in a lifetime moment where the angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah.

Now, let’s keep reading a bit more in Luke 1.

Luke 1:18-25

18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

19 The angel answered, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.”

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.

23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” [1]

Now, let’s make sure we understand what’s going on:

  • Here we have an older couple…she is well beyond child-bearing years.
  • Here we have a priest doing a once in a lifetime service as well as having a once in a lifetime encounter with the Angel Gabriel who stands in the presence of God
  • Here we have a promise of a child – who will be great, in the spirit of Elijah, who will be used of God to turn hearts back
  • Here we have a response that isn’t one of faith.

He’s like, “how is this possible? We gave up on that dream a long time ago!”

And the angle is like, “Dude, you blew it! I came announcing good news, and instead of getting on board, you are like, “No way! This can’t be! We are way too old for her to have a baby!”

Now, let’s not pick on Zechariah too much here, because, he is just a man who represents a heart that doesn’t want to be broken again.

Infertility breaks the heart.

Zechariah and Elizabeth could relate to this pain:

  • They were characterized as both Blameless and Barren.
  • They were HURT and needed HEALING.

You might be able to relate to this pain as well and you might be characterized as both Blameless and Barren – Whether that’s actual infertility…or some other barrenness.

And here is my caution to you…what we are often tempted to believe is that if we are BLAMELESS, we WON’T POSSIBLE BE BARREN!

We tend to think that if we behave correctly, we won’t SUFFER or STRUGGLE.

Or the inverse of that  — “…maybe I’m not blameless and maybe God is punishing me???”

But that’s not the case…We are all subject to the struggles of this life.

But, what I want to point you to today is the healing we can have for our hurts…and the fruitfulness that can come from the barren seasons…whatever they may be.


Listen to these two scriptures that speak of fruit being born in our lives, no matter what we are facing.

The first are the words of Jesus in John 15.

John 15:5

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Jesus says, “Remain…and you will bear fruit!”

Romans 8:28-29

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

The Apostle tells us that God is at work for our good. And that’s not only limited to the good times.  No, He works for our good, in ALL THINGS!  And God is at work to shape us into the image of his Son, so that when people see us, we resemble Jesus Christ.

So, we can with confidence say that there is a fruitfulness in our lives out of barren seasons, if we bring that barren season to him.

Friend, do you believe that God is at work for your good?  Are you using this season to allow Him to conform you to the Son?

So, what does that fruitfulness look like? What was God up to?

Look at Some Significant Things about John the Baptist from this Passage:

  1. His Name is John which means, “Yahweh is Gracious.”
  2. There will be joy and delight for his mother and father, and many will rejoice at his birth. – v. 14
  3. He will be great in the sight of the Lord. – v. 15a
  4. Filled w/ the HS from the time of the womb. – v. 15b
  5. He will bring many people in Israel back to God. – V. 16
  6. John will go before Him (the messiah) in the spirit and power of Elijah, turning the hearts of fathers to their children…
  7. He made ready a people prepared for the Lord

Now when we say all this, we say, “Isn’t it great what John did?”

Then we jump right into the story of Jesus and if we aren’t careful, we will miss the fruit of Elizabeth’s Barrenness.

Let’s step back and try to examine what John did?  What did John do to prepare the people?

What did John do to have Jesus say, in Matthew 7:28, “I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John…”

Let me give you two things…notice how this life was so fruitful!

  • John the Baptist Preached against the Sins of the People
  • John the Baptist Preached a message of Hope of the Coming King

To make the people ready…

John the Baptist Preached against the Sins of the People

Look with me at Luke 3:7-9

Luke 3:7-9

He then said to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance. And don’t start saying to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones! Even now the ax is ready to strike the root of the trees! Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

John is painting a vivid picture with his words to the crowds of people.  With his words, he is confronting them with their sin.  Their sins are sins of abuse and theft of others.

In essence he says, “You snakes!  You are coming out of the grass to escape the fire that is being lit.”

On Thanksgiving we were in Austin, at my brother in laws, and he built a small bonfire. They lived on some acreage at this time and he had mowed a large area. He then stacked up a lot of brush and limbs that he wanted cleared out, and then he and my father-in-law, lit the fire.

It wasn’t lit but a few minutes when we saw a field mouse go running out from the fire.  What had been the houses cover from the elements and predators, became a burning inferno that he had to flee from.

The prophet here is saying, “You people are only fleeing judgment because the temperature is rising.” 

Notice also, that he calls them a “Brood of Vipers.”  These words are also used of Jesus for the Pharisees.  The “Brood of Vipers,” are those who stand in opposition to the things of God. 

When you go back to Genesis 3:15 you see that there will be two lines of offspring that will be found throughout the Scripture—the Seed of the Serpent and the Seed of the Woman.

  • From the Seed of the Woman will come the Messiah.
  • From the Seed of the Serpent will come those who kill the Messiah.

John the Baptizer is saying to those assembled there, your lives demonstrate that you are those of Satan, not Abraham.

If you are truly repentant, you will turn from your sins and your lives will demonstrate that you have put your faith in the one who is to come. 

 So, John was preaching against the sins of the people.  But he was also preparing them for the Messiah.

That’s the second aspect of this fruitfulness that I want you to see.

John the Baptist Preached a Message of Hope of the Coming King

Look at Luke 3 where we see Luke describe John’s ministry.

Luke 3:1-6

3     In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:

“A voice of one calling in the desert,

‘Prepare the way for the Lord,

make straight paths for him.

5     Every valley shall be filled in,

every mountain and hill made low.

The crooked roads shall become straight,

the rough ways smooth.

6     And all mankind will see God’s salvation.’ ”

True prophets were ”voices,“ for their messages were from God. They were calling the nation to get back into a proper relationship with Him…The entire nation was in a spiritual wilderness, and each Israelite needed to get ready spiritually for the appearing of the Lord and His glory.

Raising the valleys and lowering the mountains refer to workmen leveling or smoothing out the roads on which a king would travel when he came to visit an area.

John the Baptist is Proclaiming a Message of Hope, declaring that there was one coming that each person in Israel had to prepare for his rule and reign.  A King was coming and the people must be ready.

Now let’s go back to Luke 3:3 and see how John would lead the people to be ready.

Luke 3:3

3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”

Clearly, John was calling the people of the nation to repent of their ways.  God was using him mightily as there were many crowds who came into the wilderness to hear him preach. He was seeing many repent and be baptized.

In Acts 19:4, Paul describes the message that accompanied this baptism.

Acts 19:4

Paul said, “John baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people that they should believe in the One who would come after him, that is, in Jesus.” 

People of the Old Testament, those who lived prior to the coming of Christ, were saved by putting their hope and trust into the one who was to come.

  • Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.
  • The saints of the Hall of Faith of Hebrews 11 all put their faith and hope in the one who was to come.

John consistently pointed people to Jesus telling them to put their hope in the Messiah of God and to ready themselves for His rule and reign in their lives.

In this challenge, he poured hope into them. This hope was a message that they were:

  • not forgotten,
  • that God did have a plan,
  • and that it was time to prepare for the rule and reign of this king in their midst.

I believe it is fair for me to say to you to make your hearts ready for Christ’s second coming.  The time of repentance is drawing to a close and like a thief in the night, Jesus will return again to receive His church and launch his millennial reign.  You can have hope in Jesus Christ but don’t wait, for neither you nor I are guaranteed tomorrow.

Friend, you may be in the same boat of the people of Israel when John preached to them.  You may not know it, but in yourself, you are a sinner in need of a savior. If you have yet to trust Jesus Christ for your salvation, then you stand separated from God, destined for eternal damnation and judgment. My friend, your sins have separated you from God.

But the good news is that Jesus came to bring you to God.  If you will trust him with your life, you will be saved.  If you will believe that Jesus died and rose again for you, then you will become the righteousness of God.  My friend, will you open your life to Christ right now?  Today is the day of salvation.


Let’s Pray Together

  1. Have you hardened your heart to God because of pain? – you won’t bear any fruit with a hard heart…can you give that to him?
  2. Ask God to use your pain…and let him know you won’t waste it.
  3. Ask Him to bear fruit from the barrenness and bring healing to the hurt.
  4. Take Christ as your Savior.



[1] The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Lk 1:18–25). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.