Christmas is only a week away, and we are full of anticipation for the coming of the Messiah because we have already discovered our need for a Savior and an amazing prophecy proclaiming wonderous truths about who Jesus is.
We are ready to open up the gospel of Luke and read about the birth... oh wait, that's not how Luke starts out. Let's discover how Luke builds our anticipation for the celebration of Christ's birth.
Two Births Foretold
After opening with a word of greeting to the original recipient of this gospel account, Luke begins his story about Jesus with the foretelling of another man: John the Baptist.
John's parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah, had their fair share of struggles with infertility, so much so that his father doubted the angel's words telling them they will have a son - a great son who would prepare the way for the Messiah.
John the Baptist, a relative of Jesus, got his nickname not only because he baptized Christ Himself but many others whom he called to a reconciled relationship with God. He knew his calling: to tell people of the coming of Jesus' ministry.
Luke also tells us about the angel Gabriel's visit with Mary, Jesus' mother. She was unmarried and a virgin at the time. Gabriel tells her that she has been favored and chosen to be the mother of the son of God. She will conceive a child, even while still a virgin, and it will be the Messiah whom she is to call Jesus.
The Two Moms-to-be Meet
While both Elizabeth and Mary were pregnant, Mary came to visit her relative. Something crazy happened: Elizabeth felt John leap inside her womb and she was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Ok, now, how crazy is this really? Don't pregnant women feel their babies move all the time? And isn't the Holy Spirit inside of all of us?
The Holy Spirit indwells all believers now - that is, after Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. The Holy Spirit is the Helper that Jesus promised to send us after His time on earth (John 14:16). Before this, it was not common for the Holy Spirit to indwell believers in God. In fact, it was usually a privilege reserved for prophets and kings.
The leap in Elizabeth's womb must have been noticeably different for it to be mentioned here, and I am sure that the Holy Spirit helped her to interpret what she felt because Elizabeth proclaims to Mary: "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!” Luke 1:42-45
Why does Luke include all of these stories before even getting to the birth of Jesus about whom the gospels have been written?
Luke tell us in verse 1 that he is compiling "an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us." In fact, prophecies (Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1) spoke of a messenger to prepare the way for Messiah - prophecies that are, of course, fulfilled in John the Baptist.
The virgin birth of Jesus is important as well. Luke is sure to emphasize that Jesus was not merely human but divine as well. He is the Son of God.
In the midst of these stories, Luke includes two songs of praise. The first is of Mary after Elizabeth confirms that she is, in fact, carrying the baby Messiah in her womb. The second is Zechariah's song of praise after John's birth.
A feeling of anticipation, joy, and praise is in the air. Something wondrous is about to happen and all praise be to God!
Praising God Like Mary
This week, take a detailed look at Mary's song of praise in Luke 1:46-56.
I'll share a Bible study tip that is helpful for any passage but especially great to practice with a song like this. This is, in fact, the tip most of my students say was the most eye-opening and changed the way they approached Scripture.
Click here or on the image to the right to sign up for this week's free Bible study worksheet. May God lead you in a time of worship as you examine Mary's praises to Him.
We serve a wonderful God indeed.
And, of course, come back next week as we finally read the story of Jesus' birth together and celebrate the coming of our Savior with hearts ready and waiting.