- Luke 1:5-80
- Matt. 1:18-25a
- Luke 2:1-38
Finally, after almost 10 months of daily reading, we reach the second most important event in human history—Jesus is born! (The most important event would be Jesus' death, of course.) Let's recap the major events of today's reading. After 400 years of silence, GOD sends a message to a priest named Zechariah by Gabriel the angel: you are going to have a son and you must name him John. He's going to be a great man and bring a lot of people back to GOD. Zechariah didn't believe the message because he and his wife Elizabeth were old, so he asked for a sign and Gabriel told him he would be unable to speak until the baby was born. Elizabeth became pregnant as Gabriel had prophesied and she remained secluded for five months.
In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy GOD sent Gabriel to a young girl named Mary to tell her she had been chosen by GOD for a most special mission: she would give birth to the Messiah, the LORD's Anointed, the Son of GOD. Mary was engaged but not yet married to her husband Joseph, and she readily accepted this news from GOD. Joseph, however, when he discovered Mary was pregnant, decided to put Mary away secretly, but an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and explained that Mary's pregnancy was of the Holy Spirit and she had not been unfaithful to him.
In time, John was born and when Zechariah wrote on the tablet that John would be the child's name, immediately he was able to speak. (As a quick aside, do we need any more evidence beyond this to show that GOD is intimately watching over our every moment? Of course not.) A few months later, Joseph and Mary traveled from their hometown of Nazareth to Bethlehem because Caesar Augustus had declared that everyone in the Roman territories needed to be counted for the census. While in Bethlehem, Mary gave birth to Jesus in a barn because there was no available room in the inn there. I can't imagine what that must have been like for Mary to give birth to her firstborn child in a barn, and we have no record of there being any midwives or medical assistance there. Jesus was wrapped in cloths and placed in animal feeding trough.
An angel appeared to some shepherds who were watching their flocks in the fields nearby and announced the Savior's birth in Bethlehem. All of a sudden a large number of heavenly beings appeared with the angel and praised GOD. As soon as the angels went back to heaven, the shepherds immediately ran and found Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus.
When Joseph and Mary took Jesus to the temple to be presented to the LORD, as the Law of Moses required, two older people saw Jesus and praised GOD. Simeon was an old man who had been promised by GOD that he would not die before he had seen the LORD's Christ. Anna, an 84-year-old widow, stayed constantly at the temple worshiping GOD day and night, and when she saw Jesus she thanked GOD and spoke about Him to all who were looking forward to the redemption in Jerusalem.
What an amazing and wonderful series of events! There are quite a number of lessons we could use for our devotional from this text. Let's focus on the people in these events and what they might have experienced or felt. Zechariah was a righteous man, as was his wife Elizabeth. He's in the temple serving his priestly duties when an angel appeared to him and spoke. That was no doubt very scary—everyone who saw an angel and recognized it as such were afraid.
Picture yourself in John the Baptist's situation as he grows up. He is filled with the Holy Spirit from birth. Imagine the struggles he might go through as he wrestles with his mission and purpose of preparing the way for Jesus who will come after him. Imagine John's parents as they cope with their son's special mission from GOD. No doubt they were very proud of their son.
Mary had a heart full of faith that was willing to serve in whatever role GOD wanted for her. She accepted the job of being mother to the Christ and, by all indications, stayed faithfully a part of Jesus' life the entire time.
Joseph was concerned about what to do with his planned marriage to Mary. He was simply planning on getting married, now he's going to be a father right away. No doubt that was scary and a double-dose of responsibility. Imagine how humbling it might have been for Joseph to be unable to provide a normal environment for Jesus' birth, and how frustrating it might have been traveling with a nine-month-pregnant wife only to find out that there is no available rooms at the inn in Bethlehem.
Imagine the surprise of the shepherds when suddenly a peaceful quiet night is disrupted by an angel and other heavenly beings announcing that the Savior has arrived. Imagine their fear in seeing these supernatural events.
And lastly, imagine being Jesus. What must it have been like for GOD the Word to leave the Father's side in heaven, and become a baby, the most insignificant and helpless state of humanity, lower than even that of angels, much less the Almighty? The more we think about these things, the more majestic, wonderful and awe-inspiring these truths are.