Luke 1:1-25 (NIV)
How better to start a new year than to reread the story of Jesus? I pray that Luke’s account of the life of our Lord will be a blessing to you!
1Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.
This may be a reference to the works of Mark and Matthew (most people think John was written after Luke),
3Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
Luke wanted to give a third account with an emphasis on comprehensiveness and order. Therefore, Luke is the most comprehensive gospel. He documents the story of Jesus all the way from the annunciation of John the Baptist to Jesus’ ascension.
- Luke is the most universal gospel. In Luke, Gentiles are often put in a favorable light.
- Luke’s gospel is the one most interested in the roles of women, children, and social outcasts.
- The gospel of Luke is the one most interested in prayer. He has seven different references to Jesus praying that are found in this gospel alone.
- Luke’s gospel is the one with the most emphasis on the Holy Spirit and on joy.
- Luke’s gospel is the one with the most emphasis on preaching the good news (the gospel). This term is used ten times in this Gospel (and only once in any other Gospel) as well as fifteen additional times in Acts.
you called Luke the physician,
whose praise is in the gospel,
to be an evangelist and physician of the soul:
by the grace of the Spirit
and through the wholesome medicine of the gospel,
give your Church the same love and power to heal;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold
5In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. 7But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.
8Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense.
Only priests from a particular lineage could serve in the temple. Over the years the number of priests multiplied (there were said to be as many as 20,000 priests in the time of Jesus), so they used the lot to determine which priests would serve when. The lot to serve might fall to a priest only once in his life. To a godly man like Zacharias, this was probably the biggest event of his life, a tremendous privilege, a-once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
10And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
11Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. 14He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. 16Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. 17And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
18Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
19The 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. 20And 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.”
21Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22When 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.
23When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24After 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.”
HERE is John Rutter’s “What Sweeter Music Can We Bring” performed by the King’s College, Cambridge, in 2008. Because this story is pointing as much to the birth of Christ as to the birth of John.
What sweeter music can we bring
Than a carol, for to sing
The birth of this our heavenly King?
Awake the voice! Awake the string!
Dark and dull night, fly hence away,
And give the honor to this day,
That sees December turned to May.
Why does the chilling winter’s morn
Smile, like a field beset with corn?
Or smell like a meadow newly-shorn,
Thus, on the sudden? Come and see
The cause, why things thus fragrant be:
‘Tis He is born, whose quickening birth
Gives life and luster, public mirth,
To heaven, and the under-earth.
We see him come, and know him ours,
Who, with his sunshine and his powers,
Turns all the patient ground to flowers.
The darling of the world is come,
And fit it is, we find a room
To welcome him. The nobler part
Of all the house here, is the heart.
Which we will give him; and bequeath
This holly, and this ivy wreath,
To do him honour, who’s our King,
And Lord of all this revelling.
What sweeter music can we bring,
Than a carol for to sing
The birth of this our heavenly King?