Several years ago I heard someone talk about reading 1 chapter of Luke for each day of December. Luke chapter 2 is where we find the traditional Christmas story, so it sets the tone for the month.
We have read Luke together as a family for many years now. It’s a much needed time of devotion during a very busy season.
The book was written by Luke, who was a medical doctor. This information makes me smile, because by his very nature, Luke writes in a factual way. I understand people who’s life work is medicine.
Luke begins the book by explaining his reasons for even writing this account of Christ’s life.
Here is the introduction to the book:
“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.
With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”
Luke 1:1-4 NIV
Theophilus means “Lover of God”. Scholars argue over whether this book was written to a specific person or a “general” person who is seeking to know more about Christ.
Either way, we have a wonderful account of the heart of God in this writing.
I am also using notes from Luke taken by my friend and servant of God, Becky Brown. She is a gifted speaker and delights in the meaning of names. She can be found at littlebrownlight.com
Verse 5 of chapter 1 begins with Zechariah (God Remembers) and Elizabeth (My Oath). They are both blameless servants of God, serving in the priesthood.
“Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.”
Luke 1:6-7 NIV
Here God reassures us that inability to have children is not a punishment from Him. It’s just something that happens in our broken bodies. He also proves that He can do anything He chooses, in spite of our broken bodies.
Zechariah goes into the temple to burn incense, and while he’s there, he gets paid a visit from the angel Gabriel (Strong One of God).
Gabriel announces that Elizabeth will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and he will be named John (Yahweh is Gracious).
Zechariah is in disbelief. And God dislikes lack of faith.
“Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
The angel said to him, “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.
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 appointed time.””
Luke 1:18-20 NIV
My take away from this is : Don’t make an angel mad”.
But in all reality, we would have all reacted the same way. They were both old and past childbearing years. They had never had children. This child was going to truly be a miracle straight from God.
There are some good things that came from Zechariah’s “punishment”.
He had a tangible reminder of this visit from Gabriel. How many times do we hear from God and then question it a few days later?
The other priests knew he had some supernatural experience while in the temple. I’m sure this was talked about and prepared the people for John’s birth.
Gabriel was also assigned with delivering a second birth announcement. In verse 24, he goes to Mary (Acquainted with Bitter Sorrow) and gives her this news:
“The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.”
Luke 1:28-31 NIV
Mary also questioned the angel, since she was a virgin. How could she give birth?
He does not reprimand her, he explains that Elizabeth, Mary’s family member, is going to give birth in her old age and that nothing is impossible for God.
Why does Gabriel punish Zechariah for lack of faith but not Mary? I think it’s because Zechariah was an elderly priest. He should have been mature enough in his faith to believe God when an angel appeared to him. Mary was just a young girl, and God knew the gravity of the situation she was going to have to face.
Joseph was going to think that his fiancé was cheating on him, and she risked being exiled from her family for an unwed pregnancy.
Mary left immediately to go be with Elizabeth. She likely stayed until John was born.
Mary and Zecariah both sang songs glorifying and praising God for the miracles of both babies.
John was set apart. He was chosen by God to be the one who prepared people for the ministry of Christ.
The last verse of the chapter is:
“And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.”
Luke 1:80 NIV
Tomorrow, Luke chapter 2, “The classic Christmas story”.