Do We Believe What We Hear?
As the Christmas season comes fresh this year, let's look at another section of scripture that is written before one of the narratives of Jesus' birth. The first chapter of Luke looks at the two families that conceive in miraculous ways, but responded to the news differently, which ought to urge us as well to really think about whether the Word of God is the trusted source of guidance in our own lives.
The Gospel of Luke was written by the physician of the same name, who also penned the Book of Acts (both volumes make up one-quarter of the New Testament scriptures), a remarkable fact since he was most likely the only non-Jewish writer of the NT (Ref: Col 4:10-14). Luke drafted perhaps the most most comprehensive, chronological account of Jesus Christ's life (birth, life, miracles and teachings, death, burial, and Resurrection), with an emphasis on his compassion for the less fortunate and neglected segments of society.
Grab your Bible and read through the whole chapter. Now we'll look at some key ideas, remembering that for over 400 years (since the prophet Malachi recorded his book), God was silent to the nation Israel. Men and women still had faith in the God of their ancestors, but He was quiet.
Luke uses eyewitness accounts to offer his readers a complete picture of the Son of God, so that we may know with certainty our Lord and Savior.
An angel first appears to deliver a message.
vs 7: Remind you of another couple that conceived at an old age? How about Abraham and Sarah. Remember, the birth of a baby is miraculous, but what is most important here is that in the case of both Elizabeth and her cousin Mary, the child that they bore was conceived through the miraculous work of God.
vs 8-9: Burnt offerings were made to God twice daily, as a symbol of prayers and praise to God. Wilmington notes that for the priest to enter the temple was a special honor, happening only once in a lifetime. What a great place for God to again speak, at this appointed time in history, to a man that walked blamelessly before the Lord (vs 6).
vs 18-20: Here we see Zechariah's response to the angel delivering the Word of God - DOUBT. Even today, when we doubt what God can do, we have difficulty hearing him (and often wonder why). For Zechariah, this meant becoming mute; in a sense, God was preventing him from wandering farther down a path of disbelief by preventing his tongue from working (sometimes, I think we all could benefit from this). Not a punishment per say, but a method to lovingly restore this servant unto his Lord.
Now Zechariah's wife, Elizabeth, is six months along in her pregnancy (although no one else is aware, see vs. 24), and the same angel of the Lord that visited her husband now appears to her cousin, Mary, with similar news. However, Mary is to give birth to JESUS (vs 31-33).
vs. 36: Proof of God's work is delivered, since Mary could not have known of her cousin's miracle.
vs. 37: AMEN!
Mary leaves with haste to go to her cousin to share in this miracle, and stays with Elizabeth for three months. She also sings a song of praise to God.
vs. 42: Note that Elizabeth, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, acknowledges that Mary is blessed among women, not above. We are not to worship the mother of Jesus, but rather follow in her pattern by worshiping the One himself who provides salvation to each person estranged from God, Jesus (vs. 47).
The time has come for Elizabeth to give birth, and a great celebration follows. For a moment, let's consider the means of the names in this family. Zechariah translates to "The Lord remembers," and Elizabeth means "God is my oath." Wow, the Lord remembers His oath - a clear reminder that God's promises endure and that He, through the Holy Spirit, is with those who call unto Him for salvation always, eternally.
vs. 59-60: The Jewish tradition of that day was for the eldest son to be named after his father. Keep in mind that Zechariah has not spoken in over nine months (depending on which spouse you are, that though may be exciting or troubling!). Elizabeth, keenly aware of God's plan for her child, intervenes and surprises the gathering by stating her son's name will be John (vs. 13), "the Lord is gracious."
vs. 63-64: True to His Word (vs. 20), at the moment that Zechariah communicates (via writing) that his son shall be called John, his tongue is freed and God allows his servant to speak again. After waiting for nearly a year to utter a word, Zechariah can only praise God!
Zechariah's song, a prophesy about the life and ministry of his son, John the Baptist (reference the Gospel of John, first chapter) in proclaiming to the world that Jesus is the Christ, the fulfillment of all Old Testament promises and prophesies, the only one to walk ever in the perfect law of God the Father and able to save a guilty person from their sins.