There are so many amazing and miraculous events surrounding the birth of Jesus that I want to review them as we approach Christmas. Most of this comes from Luke, chapter 1 and 2. Luke wrote a foreword which is just what I’d expect to find, and have found, in modern books, especially research documents and historical accounts:
“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”
Luke was not casually repeating rumors. He had the integrity to make the effort to go to original sources for his information. I get the picture of a serious journalist conscientiously interviewing witnesses. It seems likely that he talked to Mary the mother of Jesus, for instance, to get the detailed and personal information of what the angel said to Mary, the visit of the shepherds, and the meeting of Mary and Elizabeth. He may have talked to Elizabeth also, and to Joseph. Maybe even to some of the shepherds who were shocked out of sleep when the angel made the official announcement of the birth of the Savior. Somehow that thought captures my imagination and my interest more than just reading the words. I’m familiar with Luke’s attitude. I had the same attitude while I vetted candidates for the Constitutional Freedom Party. Luke was an active researcher whose skill with words resulted in a concise yet complete and coherent account of many events surrounding the most mysterious, miraculous, and important birth that has ever occurred on Planet Earth.
Luke’s account begins with the miraculous account of the announcement of the conception of John the Baptist and his extraordinary stature in history. John’s parents-to-be were old. Luke politely says “both were well along in years.”
There is a parallel between Mary and John’s parents that should get our attention. Luke says of Zechariah and Elizabeth that “they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.” Of Mary, the angel said “you have found favor with God.” Same phrase the Bible uses of Noah, the only head of household chosen to survive the worldwide flood.
Mary was engaged to be married, and obviously knew that becoming pregnant without having sex would not be believed. She was therefore “on track” to become a despised, rejected, slandered woman with a very uninviting future. Yet her immediate response was, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
These three people were committed to God to an unusual degree. They were like the apostle Paul, whom Jesus said was His “chosen instrument”.
The angel also told Mary that her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant. “She who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.” This meant two things to Mary, as to any woman of any time, I suppose: first, by six months Elizabeth’s pregnancy would be clearly visible, and second, it seems likely to this ignorant bachelor that a child carried to six months was more likely to be born alive and healthy. Elizabeth, you may remember, on being told her good news, “for five months remained in seclusion.” She was taking no chances!
Mary, full of joy at her own news, now overjoyed to hear the good news that would make Elizabeth so happy also, naturally went to visit her elderly cousin. In fact, she “hurried”. “Made haste”. The joy of the first Christmas had filled Mary’s heart, and she didn’t even know that’s what we would call it! 😀
And look at what happened!
“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
What stands out to me is that as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, she knew what was going on with Mary. Elizabeth knew that “Christ the Lord has come!” How did she know?
I remember a similar moment in the New Testament, when Simon Peter made his famous declaration about King Jesus: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus replied, ” ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by My Father in heaven.‘ ”
Believing God when He speaks is important. “Blessed is she who has believed…” What if Mary had grumbled? She could have said, “You can’t do this to me! I’m engaged! My fiancee will break off the engagement!” But she didn’t, and those who become saved will always be grateful to her for her faith in God. The blessings her faith incurred for all of us are incalculable.
God sometimes speaks to His willing servants in remarkable, miraculous ways. When He does, we should pay attention and act on what He says. When the angel visited Zechariah, John’s father, and announced the impending birth of John and what it would mean, Zechariah asked what seems a harmless enough question, “How can I know these things will be, because my wife and I are both very old?” Similar questions and doubts from others in the Bible were given a sign. Zechariah got a sign plus chastisement! Lucky fellow! /sarc
The angel replied, ” ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”
Wow. Pride much? Arrogance? Haughty? I don’t think I’d care to meet Gabriel. I almost laugh at the arrogance of Gabriel, but it’s not funny. Apparently angels do not like being taken lightly. They’re not chubby little cherubs and they’re never female. And they carry frighteningly lethal weapons, in addition to being able to do things to you that you’d rather not have done. So if you see an angel, be polite and don’t question his words. Just be sure he is a holy angel before you act on what he says. Topic for another time.
Many who know the Bible have heard “Mary’s Magnificat”, her ode of praise to God. But Zecharias also had praise of God, this specifically from God via the Holy Spirit. After John’s birth, Zecharias, still unable to speak, supported Elizabeth when she declared that her child’s name would be John, as the angel had instructed Zecharias. As soon as Zecharias wrote this out on a tablet, he was able to speak. This is what he said:
“And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,
‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.‘ ”
Amen! Hallelujah! Hosanna in the Highest! Hosanna to the King!
Next week: The Miraculous Just-In-Time Tax!