2008.) Luke 3:23-38

January 11, 2017
"Tree of Jesse" from 17th century Greece

“Tree of Jesse” from 17th century Greece

Luke 3:23-38   (NIV)

The Genealogy of Jesus

23Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry.

This seems to have been the age of full maturity in the Jewish mind. According to Numbers 4:2-3, priests could begin their service only at age 30.

He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph,

According to ancient custom, genealogies were almost always traced through the father, not the mother. This was a problem in the unique situation of a virgin birth.

Luke differs in the account of Matthew from David onward, but they both end their genealogies with Joseph. Why? Luke follows Mary’s line (Jesus’ actual lineage) while Matthew follows Joseph’s line (His legal lineage by adoption). This is Luke’s who point in his important phrase being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph.

–David Guzik

the son of Heli, 24the son of Matthat,
the son of Levi, the son of Melki,
the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph,
25the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos,
the son of Nahum, the son of Esli,
the son of Naggai, 26the son of Maath,
the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein,
the son of Josech, the son of Joda,
27the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa,
the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel,
the son of Neri, 28the son of Melki,
the son of Addi, the son of Cosam,
the son of Elmadam, the son of Er,
29the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer,
the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat,
the son of Levi, 30the son of Simeon,
the son of Judah, the son of Joseph,
the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim,
31the son of Melea, the son of Menna,
the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan,
the son of David,

Michelangelo's "David."

Michelangelo’s “David.”

The fact that Luke can give Jesus’ genealogical history is not unusual. Josephus traced his own genealogy from “the public records” (Autobiography, paragraph 1). It was also well known that the famous Rabbi Hillel could prove his descent from King David with reference from the public registers.

–David Guzik

32the son of Jesse,
the son of Obed, the son of Boaz,

“Ruth meets Boaz” by Thomas Matthews Rooke (1842-1942), Tate Gallery, London.

Luke, unlike Matthew, follows proper form and includes no women in his genealogy.

the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon,
33the son of Amminadab, the son of Ram,
the son of Hezron, the son of Perez,
the son of Judah, 34the son of Jacob,
the son of Isaac,

“The Binding of Isaac” by Alan Falk, 2002.

the son of Abraham,
the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,
35the son of Serug, the son of Reu,
the son of Peleg, the son of Eber,
the son of Shelah, 36the son of Cainan,
the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem,
the son of Noah,

“Noah” by Frank Wesley.

the son of Lamech,
37the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch,
the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel,
the son of Kenan, 38the son of Enosh,
the son of Seth, the son of Adam,

“Woman gives her man to eat” by Lucile Butel, 1989.

the son of God.

A genealogy may not seem like much, but it exactly establishes Jesus’ credentials as a member of the human race. A Bible translator to a distant tribe saved the genealogies for last, because he thought them the least important part of the gospels. But when he finally finished them last of all, the tribesmen were astounded. They told the translator, “You mean to tell us that this Jesus was a real person, with real ancestors? We had no idea!”

–David Guzik



HERE is a hymn which contains references to scenes all over the Bible, which I think is a fitting match with all the names above! The words come from a poem by the American Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier; the hymn, text and tune united, was first published in 1884. In the United Kingdom, the hymn is usually sung to the tune heard here, “Repton.”

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways!
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.
In simple trust like theirs who heard
Beside the Syrian sea
The gracious calling of the Lord,
Let us, like them, without a word
Rise up and follow Thee.
O Sabbath rest by Galilee!
O calm of hills above,
Where Jesus knelt to share with Thee
The silence of eternity
Interpreted by love!
With that deep hush subduing all
Our words and works that drown
The tender whisper of Thy call,
As noiseless let Thy blessing fall
As fell Thy manna down.
Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.
Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.


New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
Tree of Jesse.  http://www.ellopos.org/photoblog/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/jesse.jpg
Michelangelo.  https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3a/’David’_by_Michelangelo_JBU05.JPG
Rooke.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/2-rooke-ruth-bows-to-boaz.jpg
Falk.  http://richardmcbee.com/images/writings/Reviews-2008-present/Artists/Falk/1_Falk_Binding_of_Isaac_Akedah.jpg
Wesley.  http://www.lib.virginia.edu/area-studies/SouthAsia/Misc/Wesley/noah.htm
Butel.   http://www.artbible.net/1T/Gen0301_2ndTale_disobedience/source/20%20TENAILLE%20BUTEL%20ELLE%20EN%20DONNA%20A%20SON%20MARI.jpg

2007.) Luke 3:1-22

January 10, 2017

Luke 3:1-22   (NIV)

John the Baptist Prepares the Way

1In 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— 2during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. 3He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

“St. John the Baptist Preaching” bronze by Auguste Rodin, 1880 (Museum of Modern Art, New York)

4As 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.
5Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
6And all mankind will see God’s salvation.’ “

7John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

10“What should we do then?” the crowd asked.

11John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.”

Proverbs 21:26 (CEV)

People who obey God

are always generous.

12Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”

13“Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.


Proverbs 16:8 (NASB)

Better is a little with righteousness
Than great income with injustice.

14Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”
He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”

Proverbs 17:20 (NIV)

A man of perverse heart does not prosper;
he whose tongue is deceitful falls into trouble.

15The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. 16John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 18And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them.

19But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done, 20Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.

The Baptism of Jesus

"The Baptism of Jesus" by German Expressionist painter and printmaker Otto Dix, 1960.

“The Baptism of Jesus” by German Expressionist painter and printmaker Otto Dix, 1960.

21When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

The greatest moments in a Christian’s life come through prayer.  When Jesus prayed, heaven opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him.  The Spirit came upon the disciples as they gathered to pray on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1).  When the disciples prayed together after Pentecost, their gathering place was shaken, and they were emboldened to proclaim the gospel throughout the city (Acts 4:31).

Prayer is not a substitute for hard work—prayer is the work!  God does things in and through our lives by prayer that He does in no other way.  If you will commit yourself to spend sustained time in prayer, asking for God’s kingdom on earth, God will work in your life just as He did in the lives of Jesus and His disciples.

–Henry T. Blackaby



HERE  is “Wade in the Water,” an old African American spiritual.  “If you don’t believe I’ve been redeemed, Just follow me down to Jordan’s stream.” The song is danced by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater from their signature choreographic work, “Revelations.” Enjoy a beautiful artistic enactment of baptism!


HERE  is “You Are Mine,” by David Haas — a beautiful baptismal hymn.


New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
verse 4.  http://www.4catholiceducators.com/graphics/Luke3_4.jpg
Rodin.    http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2345/2365494878_e7898f89c6_o.jpg
child giving meal to homeless person.  https://s3.scoopwhoop.com/aka/humanfaith/23.jpg
coins.   http://jamiemcintyre.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/coin-stack.jpg
kind heart.   http://compassionatecottage.com/images/be_kind_heart.jpg
Dix.  http://bowdencollections.com/OttoDix/images/baptism.jpg

2006.) Luke 2:21-52

January 9, 2017

“The Presentation” by James B. Janknegt, 2008.

Luke 2:21-52 (NIV)

Jesus Presented in the Temple

21On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.

Matthew 1:20-21 (CEV)

While Joseph was thinking about this, an angel from the Lord came to him in a dream. The angel said, “Joseph, the baby that Mary will have is from the Holy Spirit. Go ahead and marry her. Then after her baby is born, name him Jesus,  because he will save his people from their sins.”

22When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 24and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

“St. Simeon” by Suzanne Reynolds

25Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss your servant in peace.
30For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
32a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”

It’s as if Simeon was commanded by God to keep a lonely watch through the night until he saw the sun come up; here is God’s sunrise, and because Jesus has come, Simeon can be relieved of his watch. And Simeon’s  prophecy shows that this light is for the Gentiles also. The salvation of Jesus began with Israel, but was always meant to be extended beyond Israel.

–David Guzik

Psalm 17:15  (NRSV)

As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;
when I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.



So beautiful! HERE  is “Nunc Dimittis”  by Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil (commonly referred to as Vespers) op. 37.

The photographs in the video are of the Saint Peter & Saint Paul Cathedral, St Petersburg.


33The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

by Andrey Shishkin

“Simeon and Jesus” by Russian self-taught painter Andrey Shishkin

from Peculiar Treasures:  A Biblical Who’s Who,
by Frederick Buechner


Jesus was still in diapers when his parents brought him to the Temple in Jerusalem “to present him to the Lord” (Luke 2:22), as the custom was, and offer a sacrifice, and that’s when old Simeon spotted him.  Years before he’d been told he wouldn’t die till he’d seen the Messiah with his own two eyes, and time was running out.  When the moment finally came, one look through his cataract lenses was all it took.  He asked if it would be all right to hold the baby in his arms, and they told him to go ahead but be careful not to drop it.

“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation,” he said (Luke 2:29), the baby playing with the fringes of his beard.  The parents were pleased as punch and so he blessed them too for good measure.  Then something about the mother stopped him, and his expression changed.

What he saw in her face was a long way off, but it was there so plainly he couldn’t pretend.  “A sword will pierce through your soul,” he said (Luke 2:35).

He would rather have bitten off his tongue than said it, but in that holy place he felt he had no choice.  Then he handed her back the baby and departed in something less than the perfect peace he’d dreamed of all the long years of his waiting.

    *     *     *     *     *

“The Prophetess Anna” (aka “Rembrandt’s Mother”)  by Rembrandt, 1631 (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)

36There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

Anna knew almost nothing about Jesus, compared to what we know about Him–yet see how she loved Him!

39When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.

The Boy Jesus at the Temple

“Jesus in the Temple” by James B. Janknegt, 2009.

Click on the picture above for a larger rendition — and see what Jesus and the rabbis were discussing, as written on the black board!

41Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. 42When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom.

Attendance at the major feasts was commanded in Exodus 23:17 and Deuteronomy 16:16. It was customary for the faithful of Galilee to make these pilgrimages at feast time in large groups. It would not be difficult to lose track of a young boy with such a large group of travelers–we shouldn’t accuse Joseph and Mary of child neglect. But Mary must have felt badly enough, losing the Messiah.

–David Guzik

43After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

49“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

In that day, there was nothing more natural than a son taking up his father’s business. Jesus did follow in Joseph’s footsteps as a carpenter, but His words here show that He is at least beginning to understand His unique relationship to His Father.

–David Guzik

51Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

my daily prayer for my children and grandchildren:

Luke 2:52

“May  (child’s name here)  grow and be strong in body and spirit, and in favor with God and people.”


New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
Janknegt, “Presentation.”   http://www.bcartfarm.com/art/paintings/presentation_wLG.jpg
Reynolds.   http://fineartamerica.com/images-medium/1-st-simeon-suzanne-reynolds.jpg
Shishkin.   https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/28/52/44/2852440b491d5cc854eebd74e66fc4a0.jpg
Rembrandt.    https://www.wikiart.org/en/rembrandt/the-prophetess-anna-rembrandt-s-mother-1631?utm_source=returned&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=referral
Janknegt, “Jesus in the Temple.”  http://www.progressiveinvolvement.com/.a/6a00d8341c3e3953ef017d3f34c18e970c-800wi

2005.) Luke 2:1-20

January 6, 2017

“The Nativity” by Federico Fiori Barocci, 1597 (Museo del Prado, Madrid)

Luke 2:1-20 (NIV)

The Birth of Jesus

1In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3And everyone went to his own town to register.

4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

"Arrival at Bethlehem" by Johannes Swanepoel, 1995.

“Arrival at Bethlehem” by Johannes Swanepoel, 1995.

6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.



HERE  is an old, lovely, child-like carol — “How Far Is It to Bethlehem?”

And  HERE  is something newer — “Labor of Love,” sung by Point of Grace.



Colossians 1:15-20 (NLT)

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,
for through him God created everything
in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
and the things we can’t see—
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
Everything was created through him and for him.
He existed before anything else,
and he holds all creation together.
Christ is also the head of the church,
which is his body.
He is the beginning,
supreme over all who rise from the dead.
So he is first in everything.
For God in all his fullness
was pleased to live in Christ,
and through him God reconciled
everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

The Shepherds and the Angels

8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”



From Handel’s MessiahHERE  is “Glory to God.”


15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

from Monday Moments, by Dr. Michael A. Halleen:

Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened . . . (Luke 2:15)

Here are seven things to include for a joyful journey to Christmas . . .

  • People. Attend services and other events that celebrate the day, even if you are far from home.  This trip is best taken in the company of others.
  • Tradition. What “makes” Christmas for you?  Handel’s Messiah?  A special ornament on the tree?  For many, it’s the food.  (I can’t imagine Christmas Eve without meatballs, rice pudding and lingonberries.)  Some tell stories, some re-enact the stable scene.  Honor your traditions—hold on to them.  They add warmth to the journey.
  • Music. Turn off the television and put on some of the great music of the season.  We’re on a road meant to be filled with singing.  Let your voice be added to the chorus.
  • Generosity. Obey any impulse to be generous, even to those who are not expecting generosity from you.  “When in doubt, shell it out,” one of my crazy uncles used to say, and he was right.  Tip freely.  Christmas is a time for liberality.  It makes the way to Bethlehem easier for others and more enjoyable for you.
  • Healing. Take the opportunity to restore a lost personal relationship, to mend a broken friendship.  Take the initiative without worrying about who was right or wrong in whatever it was that divided you.  Get past it, and forgive.  Best to travel light on this road, without the baggage of unresolved conflict.
  • Discipline. Keep your wits about you.  Do everything in moderation, the Bible says, like eating, for example—or drinking, or driving.  We can overextend ourselves in a hundred ways at this time of year, thinking other people’s joy somehow depends on us.  In fact, we simply add hazards—for ourselves and others—on what’s meant to be a journey of peace and joy.
  • Smiles. Erase the frown from your brow for the season.  Think about what children see when they look into your face and consciously make it a smile.  Determine that only kind words will come out of your mouth—no criticism, no complaints.  Decide to let more love into your life—love for God, for God’s children, for life itself.  You’ll be blessed, as will the others you meet along the way to Christmas.

Let’s go to Bethlehem !

16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

“Adoration of the Child” by Gerrit van Honthorst, 1620 (Uffizi, Florence, Italy)

17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

Acts 4:20 (NLT)

“We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.”

The shepherds told their news.  Who are you telling about Jesus?

19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.


New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
Barocci.  http://www.wga.hu/art/b/barocci/nativity.jpg
Swanepoel.   https://www.artmajeur.com/medias/mini/a/r/artistjohannes/artwork/5865193_2_Arrival_at_Bethlehem_2008.jpg
Jesus the visible image.    http://www.jesusismyredpill.com/Colossians%201%2015-20.jpg
angels and shepherds.    http://www.lavistachurchofchrist.org/Pictures/Jesus%27%20Childhood/images/the_angels%27_song_and_the_shepherds%27_visit.jpg
Honthorst.    http://www.oceansbridge.com/oil-paintings/product/72391/adorationofthebaby1620

2004.) Luke 1:57-80

January 5, 2017


Luke 1:57-80 (NIV)

The Birth of John the Baptist

57When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.

59On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”

61They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”

62Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.”

“Zacharias writes down the name of his son” by Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1490.

64Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God. 65The neighbors were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.

According to recent statistics released by the Social Security Administration, the name “John” is #20 in the top 100 popular names for baby boys in the USA.  “Luke” is #43,  “Jesus” is #79,  and “Joseph” is #13. 

Zechariah’s Song

67His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

The whole song naturally falls into two parts. The first (verses 68-75) is a song of thanksgiving for the realization of the Messianic  hopes of the Jewish nation; but to such realization is given a characteristically Christian tone. As of old, in the family of David, there was power to defend the nation against their enemies, now again that of which they had been so long deprived, and for which they had been yearning, was to be restored to them, but in a higher and spiritual sense. The horn is a sign of power, and the “horn of salvation” signified the power of delivering or “a mighty deliverance”. While the Jews had impatiently borne the yoke of the Romans, they had continually sighed for the time when the House of David was to be their deliverer. The deliverance was now at hand, and was pointed to by Zechariah as the fulfillment of God’s oath to Abraham; but the fulfillment is described as a deliverance not for the sake of worldly power, but that “we may serve him without fear, in holiness and justice all our days.”. . . 

68“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come and has redeemed his people.
69He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
70(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
72to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
73the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
75in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

. . . The second part of the canticle is an address by Zechariah to his own son, who was to take so important a part in the scheme of the Redemption; for he was to be a prophet, and to preach the remission of sins before the coming or the Dawn from on high. The prophecy that he was to “go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways” (v. 76) was of course an allusion to the well-known words of Isaiah 40:3–

A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
    the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
    a highway for our God.”

which John himself afterwards applied to his own mission (John 1:23), and which all three Synoptic Gospels adopt (Matt. 3:3; Mark 1:2; Luke 3:4).

–from Wikipedia

76And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

80And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel.

“St. John the Baptist” by El Greco, 1600 (Fine Art Museum of San Francisco, California)



HERE  is a beautifully simple musical rendition of Zechariah’s canticle. From the song site:

“The Song of Zechariah is popularly called the Benedictus because of the opening words in the Latin translation: “Benedictus Deus Israel”—”Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel.” … The Benedictus is a hymn of praise which celebrates the redemption of God through Jesus, the Davidic Messiah. It celebrates the primary virtues of God as a covenant partner: his mercy-kindness in choosing his partners (Abraham, David, the people of Israel) and his fidelity to the covenant. It recapitulates the saving interventions of God in the past. … It is also a prophecy, as it points to the role of the prophet-precursor: the child John. But like anything else in the Gospel, the real point is Christological: it focuses on the “daybreak from on high” in whom God has visited his people and shown his mercy, namely, Jesus Christ, whose ways John will prepare.”


New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
John and his parents.  (Sorry I do not know which movie this picture is from.)   https://static1.squarespace.com/static/542d5464e4b0b8e6564c9982/t/56655672e4b0843f55b7684a/1449481844802/
Ghirlandaio.    http://www.oceansbridge.com/oil-paintings/product/58384/zachariaswritesdownthenameofhisson14861490
John signature.   http://www.sevenlivelyartists.com/McNulty/Images/Signature.gif
El Greco.  http://www.abcgallery.com/E/elgreco/elgreco77.html

2003.) Luke 1:39-56

January 4, 2017

“Mary and Elizabeth” by Carl Bloch

Luke 1:39-56 (NIV)

Mary Visits Elizabeth

39At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.

Mary may have thought that not many people could understand her experience with Gabriel and miraculous conception. If anyone could understand, it might be Elizabeth.

41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

"The Visitation" by James B. Janknegt, 2008.

“The Visitation” by James B. Janknegt, 2008.

Elizabeth, meet Jesus!
John, meet Jesus!
Joy, joy, joy!

42In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”

from Experiencing God Day-by-Day,
by Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby:

“Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”
–Luke 1:45

In the kingdom of God, believing is a prerequisite to receiving. God spoke to Mary and gave the assurances He always gives when He assigns the impossible to His people. Everything was in place for God to act. Everything waited on Mary to believe Him. Once she believed, it was done! It takes an undivided heart to believe under such circumstances and a pure heart to see God.

This has always been God’s way with His people. Mary could not see all that had been arranged and assembled in the courts of heaven. She could not see the legions of angels prepared to protect her and her baby. She was unaware of the future and all that she and her child would face. All she knew was that God had spoken to her, and that was enough. So she responded, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord!  Let it be to me according to your word.”

When God speaks about His plans, He does so with everything already in place to fulfill His word. God never speaks hypothetically. He knows exactly what will come to pass. He simply asks you to believe Him. You will experience great blessing when you place your absolute trust in Him. Mary could not have dreamed all that would result from her faithful obedience. Likewise, you cannot possibly imagine all that God has in store for you when you trust Him. He knows exactly what He will do to bring salvation to someone you have prayed for or to heal your friend or to provide for your need. God has everything in place. Will you believe Him?

This is the irrational season,
When love blooms bright and wild–
Had Mary been filled with reason,
There’d have been no room for the Child.

–Madeleine L’Engle


Mary’s Song

46And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

Psalm 34:2-3 (NIV)

I will glory in the Lord;
    let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me;
    let us exalt his name together.

48for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,

Luke 1:28 (KJV)

And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

49for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
50His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.

Psalm 103:17 (ESV)

But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
on those who fear him,

    and his righteousness to children’s children.

51He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.

1 Samuel 2:8 (ESV)

He raises up the poor from the dust;
    he lifts the needy from the ash heap
to make them sit with princes
    and inherit a seat of honor.

53He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers.”

Psalm 25:6   (NIV)

Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,
    for they are from of old.

56Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.



HERE  is “Breath of Heaven,” also known as “Mary’s Song,” sung by Point of Grace.


New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
Bloch.  http://www.carlbloch.org/Mary-and-Elizabeth.jpg
Janknegt.   http://www.bcartfarm.com/art/paintings/Visitation_hand_wLG.jpg
poinsettia.  https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/poinsettia208webcc.jpg

2002.) Luke 1:26-38

January 3, 2017
"Annunciation," by Sandro Botticelli

“The Cestello Annunciation,” by Sandro Botticelli, 1489 (Uffizzi, Florence)

Luke 1:26-38 (NIV)

The Birth of Jesus Foretold

“The Annunciation: The Flower of God” by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, 1862.

The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came

Basque carol, paraphrased by Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924)

The angel Gabriel from heaven came,
With wings as drifted snow, with eyes as flame:
“All hail to thee, O lowly maiden Mary,
Most highly favored lady.” Gloria!

“For know a blessed mother thou shalt be,
All generations laud and honor thee;
Thy son shall be Emmanuel, by seers foretold,
Most highly favored lady.” Gloria!

Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head;
“To me be as it pleaseth God,” she said.
“My soul shall laud and magnify His holy name.”
Most highly favored lady. Gloria!

Of her, Emmanuel, the Christ, was born
In Bethlehem all on a Christmas morn,
And Christian folk through-out the world will ever say:
“Most highly favored lady.” Gloria!

26In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37For nothing is impossible with God.”

38“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.

My daily prayer:

Luke 1:38 (King James Version)

Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.

“Head of the Virgin for Annunciation” by Pierre-Paul Prod’hun, 1811 (The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia)

The Annunciation
By Denise Levertov

We know the scene: the room, variously furnished,
almost always a lectern, a book; always
the tall lily.

Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.

But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent. God waited.

She was free
to accept or refuse, choice
integral to humanness.

Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another in most lives?
Some unwillingly undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,

More often those moments
when roads of light and storm
open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from
in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.

God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.

She had been a child who played, ate, spelt
like any other child – but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.
Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.

Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
only asked

a simple, “How can this be?”
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
perceiving instantly
the astounding ministry she was offered:

to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power –
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.

Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love –

but who was God.



HERE  is my favorite rendition of “Mary, did you know?” sung by the incomparable Voctave and featuring Mark Lowry.


New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
Botticelli.   http://www.jackygallery.com/images/ANNUNCIATION-1.jpg
Burne-Jones.  http://www.abcgallery.com/B/burne-jones/burnejones10.html
Prud’hon.  http://www.abcgallery.com/D/david/prudon4.html