LINK: Luke 1
Each gospel opens uniquely. Matthew begins with a genealogy and then tells of Jesus' conception and birth from the point of view of Joseph - giving a kind of legal perspective. Mark begins with Jesus as a grown man whom John the Baptist announces - diving straight into the action. John begins at Creation with Jesus, the Word, and emphasizes that He is God and made all things - providing a philosophical foundation. Luke begins with announcements, reactions, visits, and songs - delving into emotions and relationships. It is from Luke that we grasp the personal impact of the births of John and Jesus.
It is only in Luke that we read of Elizabeth and Zechariah, of the announcement of Gabriel to Mary, of Mary's visit to her cousin Elizabeth, and of the songs of Mary and Zechariah. All of that is in the first chapter!
I hope you will take some time to read Luke 1. Imagine what it would be like to be Zechariah or Elizabeth or Mary. Think about what they must have thought and felt. Don't read this as something that happened to stick figures. These are living, breathing people. Sing with Mary and Zechariah! While you're singing, think about the words.
REFLECTION AND APPLICATION
In case you can't tell, I love this chapter. Here are some random thoughts I hope will explain why to some degree:
I love the details in the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, who happen to be two of my favorite people in the Bible. They were old and childless and had longed for a child for many years, but instead of becoming bitter, the Bible says they were "upright in the sight of God." That's something. It's easy to fake uprightness with people, but God knows our hearts. They continued serving God faithfully in spite of unfulfilled desires.
I chuckle each time I think of how and when God revealed to Zechariah that he and Elizabeth were to have a son, John. Isn't it great that we have a record of Zechariah's doubting reaction? I thank God for giving us imperfect people to learn from. And I think that Zechariah's punishment, having to remain silent until the birth of his son, may have been a rod of grace. Zechariah was spared responding to all the questions from neighbors; he was given time to ponder and think. Later he demonstrated obedience when to the shock of his neighbors he reiterated what Elizabeth had already told them by writing, "His name is John." Right after he wrote that his speech was restored and he prophesied in song!
Gabriel told Zechariah that the son, John, would be a joy and delight to his parents and that he would be great in the sight of the LORD. What a gift!
Mary is young and a virgin, and we're told she was troubled by the greeting of the angel, Gabriel. She was bewildered at Gabriel's news that she was to bear God's son because she knew that she was a virgin. I love how she blurts out her question, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" She is so stuck on that part that she doesn't ask about her child being God's son - the greater miracle. It is such a realistic human reaction! But she listens and accepts.
My favorite part of the whole chapter is the next part! The angel Gabriel, in the middle of telling Mary that she, a virgin, will give birth to the son of God, also "happens" to tell her that her cousin Elizabeth, who was said to be barren, was going to have a son, and was in her sixth month of pregnancy. Have you ever wondered why God had Gabriel tell Mary that, right then?
Where does Mary go? Straight to her cousin, Elizabeth - and she didn't live next door! God gave Mary someone who would understand, someone with whom she didn't have to struggle to explain it all, someone who understood a miracle! At Elizabeth's home, Mary had a chance to rest and reflect. She was given an older woman, who was also pregnant, to help her through her early months of pregnancy. Doesn't this tell you so much about our Lord God?
Read Mary's song, often called Mary's Magnificat. Notice the paradoxes. Notice what she says about God. What do we learn from it about God's character?
Read Zechariah's song, too. What does he say about God? Trace in the song the unfolding of God's salvation through the Old Testament to the coming of the Messiah. Does it help to clarify the unity of the Old and New Testaments for you?
If you doubt God's intimate care of you, think again. This chapter shows us that God is a God who cares about our emotions, who places us in relationships, who provides for us exactly what we need when we need it.
Father God, I thank you for this chapter. Thank you for inspiring Luke to write it so that we can see you more clearly. We praise you for your love and kindness and compassion. Help us to learn from Zechariah and Elizabeth and Mary.