Read: Luke 2:39-40
Two verses sum up the first 12 years of Jesus’ life on earth, but these two short verses in their context speak volumes about Jesus as a child. Jesus was born into a family with God-fearing parents. His earthly parents were meticulous about following the laws and customs of the Jewish people as demonstrated by their presentation of Jesus at the temple as an infant and their yearly pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Luke notes the Jesus as a boy grew strong and was filled with wisdom, which greatly impressed the scribes at the temple later in his life (Luke 2:47). Luke also notes that God’s favor was on him. Naturally, this should be expected being that Jesus was God incarnate, nevertheless Jesus was also a human being that had the same challenges people struggle with, including learning.
It seems that through God’s providence, Jesus was placed in a God-fearing home so that he would indeed fulfill the Law of God. Jesus parents were instrumental in this in that because of their obedience to the law, Jesus was able to fulfill the law and was taught the law from a young age onward similar to when Jesus underwent baptism to “fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:13-15). By fulfilling the Law, Jesus was able to be the perfect and final sacrifice for sin to all who believe (Matthew 5:17-18, Hebrews 10:3-12). When Jesus commanded his disciples to make disciples of all nations, part of the command is to teach the disciples to obey what he commanded.
Jesus’ fulfillment of the law made him the ultimate example to follow. He also had the authority to make the command to make disciples and that command was obeyed by his disciples onward. Part of disciple making involves parents teaching their children to obey the ways of God as Joseph and Mary did with Jesus. The Bible speaks to this in a number of places: Deuteronomy 4:9, Deuteronomy 6:7, Psalm 78:1-8, Proverbs 4, Proverbs 22:6, Proverbs 29:17, Ephesians 6:4, Hebrews 12:7-10. Statistics show that when both parents are involved in the spiritual upbringing of a child, that child is more likely to follow in their parent’s footsteps in do the same. It may be hard at times, but the fulfillment of a spiritual upbringing is both life to the child and a blessing for the parent!
Lord, help me to teach those in my care to obey what I have been taught to obey!
Read: Luke 2:36-38
Luke has just 3 verses dedicated to Anna, but he says quite a bit about her in those verses. She was a prophetess, of the tribe of Asher, widowed 7 years into her marriage and had never remarried, 84 years old, the daughter of Phanuel and worshipped in the temple day and night. Anna is not the only prophetess in Scripture. By calling her this, Luke ranks her among many other remarkable women including Miriam the sister of Moses (Exodus 15:20) and Deborah (Judges 4:4). It’s interesting that Luke makes all these notes about Anna. In fact there is more biographical information about her than information about what she did when she saw Jesus, which was praise God and God tell others about the coming redemption of Jerusalem, namely through Jesus.
Anna is one instance of Luke’s special attention to the role of women in the story of Jesus. When writing Luke the role of women in most of the world at that time was not very high. But nevertheless Luke’s intentionality on the part of women and also the Gentiles for that matter show that Jesus is not redeemer for a select few, rather the redeemer for all people and that all people are equally valuable to him regardless of what status they may have in the world and all have a role in his work.
While Anna’s deeds may not have been some great miracle on a grand scale, her life-long commitment to God make her among the greats in Scripture. Everyone who believes has a part in God’s work, and those that live a life committed to God’s work will leave a lasting legacy even though no single deed is his or her defining moment. Living faithfully day to day in the monotony of life will culminate in a testimony that will be remembered and an example to be followed.
Lord, Help me to live faithfully all my days!
Luke 2:25-35: Blessings Through The Spirit
Luke notes that Simeon was a devout and righteous among Jews waiting for the “consolation” for Israel, which that is the comfort or solace of Israel, but more than that Luke notes that the Holy Spirit was with Simeon which was rare indeed prior to the ascension of Christ. The Holy Spirit had told him that he would not see death until he had seen the Christ, which was Jesus. Luke doesn’t say, but it is probably safe to assume that Simeon had been waiting for a long time for this day, and after seeing Jesus he praises the Lord, saying that he can die in peace.
Simeon also offers two blessings that are also prophecy in response to seeing Jesus – one to God and one to Mary. The first blessing Simeon notes that Jesus is God’s salvation for not only the Jews but also the Gentiles. He says that Jesus was the salvation prepared for “all people” and that Jesus light to the Gentiles. Mary and Joseph were both “marveled” about this, but then Simeon says to Mary a blessing that on the surface may not seem to be much of a blessing. The nature of the blessing notes that Mary’s heart would be pierced and that the child would be for the rising and falling of many in Israel. In other word, Jesus would be a stumbling block for some, but for others would be salvation, ultimately through his death and resurrection.
The connection between the Holy Spirit to blessings and prophecy is remarkable here and elsewhere in the New Testament. John 14:16-18 and later in John 14:26 calls the Holy Spirit a “helper” or “counselor” depending on the translation. The Greek word here is the noun form of the word Luke used in Luke 2:25 when he notes that Simeon was waiting for the “consolation” of Israel, which is “paraklētos”. It was through the Spirit that Simeon was able to know Jesus when he saw him, bless God and bless Mary, and ultimate prophecy concerning Jesus. The Spirit was also upon the disciples when they spoke at Pentecost to in a similar manner (Acts 1:4-8, Acts 2:1-4).
It was after Pentecost though that the Spirit became available to all those who repent and believe in Jesus (Acts 2:38), not only Jews but Gentiles as well. For Christians that are in the in tune with the Spirit there is much that they can sense that those that are not in tune cannot. God works through the Spirit which enables Christians to do the work that God has set out for them. It is imperative then to seek out the will of God by devoutly walking in righteousness the way as Simeon did, and in doing so the Spirit can work!
Lord, use your Spirit to do your work through me!
Read: Luke 2:21-24
Mary and Joseph were devout Jews that not only kept traditions of the their people, but also kept the instructions that were given to them by angels.
- Jesus was circumcised and named on the 8th day. This was done in accordance with the Law given to Moses and Abraham (Genesis 17:12, Leviticus 12:3).
- Mary and Joseph were told to name their child Jesus independent of one another by angels on two separate occasion (Matthew 1:21, Luke 1:31).
- Mary and Joseph presented Jesus at the temple according to the law (Leviticus 12:6).
- Mary and Joseph also made sacrifices according to the law (Exodus 13:2)
- Mary and Joseph also sacrificed two doves or pigeons according to the law (Leviticus 12:8). It is apparent that they could not afford a lamb, but the law made provisions for that.
While naming a baby and following traditions may not seem that remarkable, there is great symbolism in what they were doing in naming Jesus and presenting him as first born. The name “Jesus” in English is comes from the Hebrew name that means “God saves”. Matthew 1:21 makes note of this, saying that Jesus would be the one to save people from their sins. Also in this, the consecration of the firstborn male in a family was to remind the people when the Lord brought them out of slavery in Egypt – another motif of salvation. God spared the firstborn of everyone who sacrificed a lamb and put the blood on the doorposts of their homes (Exodus 13:12-15).
Christians don’t follow the laws like the Jews did because Jesus became the sacrifice for sin. Nevertheless there are some symbols that Christians have to remember what Christ did. First, Christ ordained what is known as communion or the “Lord’s Supper” as a memorial to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. This sacrifice was the payment for the sins committed by man (1 Corinthians 11:23-26, Luke 22:17-20). Second, Jesus gave Christians baptism, which notes both the cleansing of sins and the resurrection of Jesus and ultimately all believers (Romans 6:3-5, Colossians 2:12).
Rather than get caught up in rote religion, Christians ought to reflect on the reasons that symbols and signs exists. Usually these serve as a reminder of some work that God has done or a promise that God will fulfill as wit communion does for Jesus’ blood being spilled and baptism does a reminder of the resurrection of Jesus and the future resurrection of all men. These symbols and tradition can help draw us into a deeper relationship with the one who gave them.
Lord help me to remember what you have done and will do!
Read: Luke 2:8-20
When Jesus was born, his circumstances were less than ideal. While swaddling a baby wasn’t particularly unusually, laying a baby in a manger for a crib was. But God had plans for this. God sent an angel to some shepherds who were just doing their job, which was nothing unusual. Shepherds basically lived with the sheep day and night to protect them from danger. But when the angels showed up. They were afraid. But the news that God revealed through the angels was astounding: the Savior had been born basically right around the corner. The sight and sound of angels proclaiming the “good news” and singing was enough to cause the shepherds to leave their flocks and seek out the baby that the angel told them would be laying in a manger.
When the Shepherds went to Bethlehem, everything was exactly as the angel had told them. So they spread the news around: The news about baby being born laying in a manger, the news about angels singing, the news about them finding the baby as they angel had told them, and the greatest news that the Savior had been born. While they were certainly frightened by the sight of an angel, they were overcome with joy when they found everything as they were told.
In the midst of all this, Luke makes note of Mary “pondering” these things in her heart. She had been told by and angel herself that she would give birth to Jesus who was the Lord and the Son of God (Luke 1:26-38). The shepherds report vindicated what she had already experienced in a new and fresh way now that Jesus was born.
Good news was first delivered to Mary, then to shepherds, who then relayed to numerous other people, all who were amazed at what they heard. God intended this good news to be for all the people so that they too would be amazed when they heard it. This good news is still going out to all the world even today that the Savior was born into the world. Christians should be like the shepherds and proclaim this news so all can meet Jesus and be amazed!
Lord, Your coming is Good News. Help me share it!
Read: Luke 2:1-7
Luke is meticulous about the details of the historical setting of his Gospel. Here, he places Jesus birth during the reign of Caesar Augustus. The difficulty though with dating this text has to do with dating the census in reference to Quirinius was governor of Syria around AD 6, but Herod who was the king of Judea who had died sometime earlier. There have been a number of proposed solutions to this problem (some more reasonable that others) while others think Luke was simply mistaken. Given that Luke’s accuracy is impeccable on other matters, it would be jumping to conclusions to say he was mistaken. But it would also be jumping to conclusions to say that any one of the proposed solutions is indeed correct either without further historical evidence.
In any case, we can affirm that God used the most powerful political and military figure in the world at the time to fulfill his purposes in earth. The census that went out from Augustus forced Joseph to go from Nazareth to Bethlehem, his home town and the town of his ancestor, King David to register with Mary his espoused wife who was very pregnant at the time. When Mary gave birth, she gave birth to Jesus and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn. In ancient times, inns were usually accompanied with a stable for animals. An upper room would be for guest and a lower room would be for the animals. The plain reading of this suggests that the inn was simply full. Some have suggested though that the innkeeper did not have room specifically for Mary and Joseph. Nevertheless, the picture of God using the most powerful man in the world to start a chain of events that would lead to the King of Kings being born in a lowly stable is intentional. God was fulfilling an age old prophecy from Micah 5:2-4 which tells of a King that will come from lowly Bethlehem that would be known to the ends of the earth.
What started from humble roots in a stable in the small Bethlehem has shaped the course of human history and is still shaping the course of human history. Jesus’ renown is still going forward into all the nations and more and more people are coming into his kingdom every day. The juxtaposition of the God exalting the humble and diminishing the proud is a theme in scripture (Psalm 138:6, Matthew 8:11-12, Matthew 19:30, James 4:6, 1Peter 5:5, etc). Caesar’s reign ended and the empire eventually crumbled. But Jesus after enduring the cross was exalted. His name is the name above all names and every knee will bow to it (Philippians 2:5-12). Christians are encouraged to be like Christ, and lay aside what we might have rights to and become humble, and in doing so God will lift them up to the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:11-14)!
Lord, you humbled yourself for glorious ends: the salvation for all men.
Help me to be humble so you can be lifted up!
Read: Luke 1:67-80
After Zacharias and Elizabeth had named John, Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit. He issues up a song that is both praise and prophecy. The song starts with an accolade to God’s grace and mercy. He notes the “horn of salvation’ in the “house of David”. Zacharias was a priest so he was likely from the Levitical line. His wife Elizabeth was a descendant of Aaron from which the Levitical line came too (Luke 1:5). Zacharias notes later that John would prepare the way for the Lord and notes that he would proclaim the message of Salvation which is Jesus who is the horn of Salvation from the house of David. Zacharias also recalls the promise to Abraham. This alludes to the when Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac, but the Lord stopped him. And from this, God promised to Abraham that he’d have countless descendants that would bless the nations (Genesis 22:16-18).
The second part of the song is a prophecy pertaining specifically to John, where Zacharias tells what John would do: he would prepare the way for the Lord and proclaim the message of salvation to the people of Israel. John did precisely this before Jesus started his ministry. He proclaimed a message of salvation and repentance of sin in proclaimed that Jesus would come. And at this point, John would point to Jesus as the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world (Luke 3:1-23).
Zacharias’ prophecy was fulfilled during the lifetime of Jesus. There are many other prophecy in the New Testament though that have not been fulfilled. While Christians wait for these prophecies to be fulfilled, Christians can praise God for what he has done in the work of Jesus – the horn of Salvation that came to save the nations from their sins.
Lord, I praise you for what you have done and what you will do!
Read: Luke 1:57-66
Jews were people of tradition, and they kept detailed records of family genealogies. Many times, sons were known by their fathers or a significant ancestor. Naming a son or daughter after a significant relative was a way of honoring that relative, as it is many cultures even today. When Elizabeth and Zachariah broke from tradition and name their son a name that hadn’t been used was a marker of significant—there was something special about this child. Elizabeth and Zacharias independently choosing cemented what they already believed to so. Elizabeth spoke the name, but Zacharias could not speak because he had doubted God, so he wrote down the name. Nevertheless, God had given them a son in their old age and they weren’t the only people who saw the significance of this. When the news spread of what happened, many were amazed and asked, “What then will this child be”.
On this side of history, we know the significance of John. He would be the one to prepare the way for Jesus as a prophet likened to Elijah. When Jesus did come John baptized Jesus. John’s message was a message of repentance and forgiveness that lead up to Jesus who would be the savior of the world.
From time to time, God breaks into the repetition and traditions of the lives of Christians reveals something significant. Like Elizabeth and Zacharias, we should be in tune with the Holy Spirit in such a way that we recognize where God is at work and respond appropriately. And at times things will unfold in such a way that people will ask, “What then will this be?” and watch as God’s plan unfolds.
Lord, help me see where you are at work and join in!
Read: Luke 1:46-56
Mary’s song in response to Elizabeth’s greeting bring is about bringing the utmost glory to God for what he had done in her life concerning Jesus’ conception. God saw an unpretentious woman who feared him and he exalted her because of it. When Mary speaks her verse, she extols the Lord in a number of ways, but the point being that God extends mercy and blessings to those who are humble and seek him, yet scorns those who are proud for whatever reason.
The juxtaposition of Jesus exalting the lowly and scorning the proud is a common theme all throughout the New Testament (Luke 14:1, Luke 18:14, Matthew 5:3, James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5-6 and many others) and the Old Testament (Psalm 138:6, Proverbs 3:34, Proverbs 15:33, Proverbs 16:18-19, Proverbs 29:23, Isaiah 57:15 and many others). God undoubtedly prefers such people who are humble because these are the people who truly know there place before God, and when something extraordinary happens they turn the glory back to God rather than themselves.
The theme of God opposing a proud heart was not new in Jesus’ day and is not something new even until now. God does not turn a blind eye to those that seek his face and do it with a pure heart. Genuine humility is not about trying to make sure that everyone else knows sees one’s humility, rather being mindful of God in a quiet way as one live his or her life as Mary was doing when God chose her. Because she was humble, obedient, and believed God, she was blessed. And she turned the glory back to God when she was.
Lord, help me to remain humble and praise you when you exalt the humble.
Read: Luke 1:39-45
The Holy Spirit was alive and working among the four characters mentioned in this text:
- Elizabeth knew that Mary was carrying her “lord” even though the child wasn’t even born. And for this reason, she held Mary in high regard as one would respect a person of honor.
- Elizabeth and her child John were both filled with joy even as Mary and her child approached – so much so that Elizabeth’s child “leaped” in the womb.
- Elizabeth recognized these facts in spite of the fact that Mary was yet unmarried. Conventional wisdom would have condemned such a pregnancy.
The blessings Mary received came because of her faith – she had the great honor carrying God incarnate. The coming of Mary and her child caused those who were sensitive to the Spirit’s workings to be filled with joy and with the Spirit.
1 Thessalonians 1:1-8 shows that even in times of hardship and persecution the Spirit gives joy. This is because the readers of Thessalonians had become “imitators” of “us” – namely the apostle Paul and his companions that had been to Thessalonica to plant a church there. Christians nowadays too are like the Christians in the scriptures – they have the Holy Spirit and they have Jesus. When the Lord comes near and the Spirit works, the natural response of Christians should respond in joy in spite of the odd of unusual circumstances as Mary and Elizabeth were experience. Christians can believe and be blessed as Mary was.
Lord, when you come near, help me respond in joy!