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All Christian History

Christmas Thinking

Writer: Rachel Kidd

Who do we serve and why?

Luke, an accurate historian and scholar, provides us with the manifesto of the messiah in his gospel. Luke reports the life and ministry of Jesus to us, demonstrating how Jesus proclaimed, proved, and applied His manifesto.

Like the manifestos of other world leaders, it is intended to be a guide to life, a lens of divine providence through which to view the world. We are meant to ask God, what will you have me to do? Viewing Luke through this lens, understanding it as a report of Jesus’ manifesto, helps us understand Him better.

Do Your Christmas Thinking Early

You’ve probably heard the old adage, ‘do your Christmas shopping early,’ but what would happen if instead, we did our Christmas thinking early? As I write this in January with the very last of the Christmas decorations still lingering around the house, I think about how sad I usually am this time of year. With the holiday celebrations and gatherings over, I tend to feel let down in the gloom of winter. And yet, the book of Luke reminds me that Christmas is not just a season, it’s a message that rings true all year round.

According to Luke, when God intersected human history and became a man, He invited certain people to participate in His great miracle. Luke gives us a detailed look at the birth of Christ in an extensive 132 verses that can be divided into six paragraphs. This tells us how important the story is, how crucial every detail is to the message of the Gospel. The first paragraph tells the story of the Birth of John the Baptist, the last of the messianic prophets. He pointed to the coming of Jesus Christ and baptized Him in God’s will.

John’s birth was a precursor miracle, if you will, of the virgin birth of Jesus. Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth were elderly and unable to conceive. The angel Gabriel tells the priest Zacharias that his wife will bear the last messianic prophet and herald in the birth of Jesus. Zacharias is dubious, unable to believe the angel’s prophecy. In turn because of his unbelief, Gabriel strikes Zacharias mute until the birth of his son. This priest has a great vision for God’s people, and yet is unable to share it aloud. How difficult must it have been for Zacharias, to be given this great message but unable to share it with others? I can imagine it was an incredible burden to carry for him over those nine months, likely a deep shame he felt in his unbelief. How can we learn from Zacharias?

The angel Gabriel then appears to a young, virgin peasant girl, Mary. He tells her this same good news, that God is going to become man and that she is highly favored among women. He tells her that God has chosen her to bear the child and be the mother of God. Mary is confused and disturbed, she is unsure what the angel could mean. She asks the angel, “how could this be? I am a virgin.” Here we see a distinction, between sincere questioning and even doubt and a lack of faith or unbelief. Mary is not punished for her questions, rather she is reassured by the miracle of her cousin Elizabeth’s pregnancy with John the Baptist. The baby in Elizabeth immediately recognizes Mary as the mother of God, leaping in the womb with joy. We see Mary opposite of Zacharias as someone who faithfully and dutifully believes in God’s call on her life. How can we respond like Mary to God’s calling, no matter how impossible it might seem? We also see that God encourages our sincere questions, wanting us to wonder and be curious. He doesn’t seem to expect a blind allegiance, rather a secure foundation of faith anchored in reassurance.

The next event in Luke details the circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus, giving us precise historical details. He tells us that Cesar Agustus issued a decree for a national census when Corinueus was governor of Syria. The records tell us that while the Roman emperor at the time Corineus was governor was a man named Octavious, he was given a name that signified divinity; Augor or Augustus. This tells that Luke is incredibly accurate and his history can be verified. Because of this census and based on Old Testament prophecy, Mary and her fiance Joseph are required to travel to their ancestral home of Bethlehem.

And on the night that Jesus was born, God sent angels to tell shepherds to go see the newborn King. All of these people experienced the miracle of the greatest event in human history. The miracle of Christmas is that God became man so that He could bring salvation to mankind.

Why the Shepherds?

There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” —Luke 2:8-11

We see here that the message of the Christ is not just for one tax bracket, race, color, or nationality. The Good News is for everyone, for the entire world. The shepherds, low of status as they were, are the first to hear of the birth of Jesus, wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger. Jesus wasn’t born in a palace, instead He was born in a stable and placed in a feed trough. Everyone who was brought into the story of Jesus was told for a reason, and informed for a specific, divine purpose. So, why the shepherds? Because they stopped and told everyone they possibly could. We can only imagine how fast and far the news from the shepherds traveled.

The hope of the Christmas story is knowing that God became man. The Old and New Testaments tell us that Jesus will physically intersect human history again in the miracle of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Just as the first Christmas was the only hope we have for salvation, His Second Coming is the blessed hope of the Church and the only hope of the world. We must follow the example of the shepherds with sincere belief and faith, telling everyone this Good News before we see it for ourselves.

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