Summary: This is a study of the first chapter of Luke leading up to the birth of Jesus
Christmas Time Again
Prepare the way, Emmanuel is coming, prepare the way, Emmanuel is coming, oh prepare the way, Emmanuel is coming, will we be ready to meet our Lord and King? This is the question people have asked over the centuries. Will we be ready? Is Jesus Christ really coming back? Did He really come the first time?
Good questions. The answer to two out of three is yes. There is no question that Jesus walked this earth. There is no question that he walked the talk, healed the multitudes and helped people, performed miracles and taught us the secret of life. There is no question of His existence and of His deity. He was, after all, the Son of God. How else does a person raise people from the dead, and then raise Himself as well? Is Jesus really coming back, you bet. If you study the Old Testament prophets, they point to Christ’s second coming. If you study the Apostle John’s book of Revelation, not only is Christ coming back but Scripture says He will come again with a vengeance and the timeline is getting shorter. Will we be ready, well that’s just up to you and me? That’s the only question I can’t answer for you.
This is the first Sunday of Advent as we again welcome in the Christmas Season. Actually, the retail stores have beaten us to it. The Christmas decorations were up well before Halloween back in mid-October.This being the first Sunday of Advent we lit the candle of hope as we started the service. What does the Bible say about hope? The Bible says plenty. Let me share.
The Christmas story, certainly a story of hope is recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Most referenced is Luke’s Gospel and we‘ll be reading from it today and throughout most of this wonderful Christmas season.
First some background. Who was Luke? Luke was not one of Christ’s chosen disciples however he was a close traveling companion to the Apostle Paul. He was a native of Antioch in Turkey. Perhaps this is why he references Antioch so much in his writings. It is interesting to note that Luke was a Gentile, a non-Jew, so this makes him the only Gentile to write any of the books of Scripture. In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he refers to Luke as a Doctor, so his recordings are precise yet not medically technical. He records Jesus’ healing ministry in more detail than any of the other Gospel writers. Dr. Luke wrote both his Gospel and the powerful book of Acts – the Acts of the Apostles most likely only 30 years after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, so his writings are not only sound but certainly inspired by God.
The Christmas story actually begins in chapter 2 of Luke’s Gospel, but this morning our focus is on chapter 1 as we prepare the way for Emmanuel. Emmanuel means “God with us” and Christ is known as Emmanuel.
The first chapter of Luke is a fascinating account leading up to the birth of Jesus and takes place less than a year prior. The main characters are Elizabeth and her husband Zacharias, an Angel of the Lord Gabriel, and the Mother of Jesus, Mary. In his writings I visualize 6 scenes and I invite you to read along with me.
Scene 1: An Angel announces the birth of John who will be known as “John the Baptist” the forerunner of Jesus: In verses 6 & 7 Luke writes; “They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. But they had no child because Elizabeth was barren and they were both advanced in years.” Herod was the King of Judea at the time and Zacharias was one of the temple priests. The temple priesthood was organized into 24 divisions and each division served in the temple twice a year for one week at a time. So Zacharias served in the temple 2 weeks a year, and this was his second week of service. His wife, Elizabeth was also a descendent of Aaron, Moses’ brother, the first high priest, so both Zacharias and Elizabeth were from a long line of priests. Zacharias was chosen from a large number of priests to burn incense in the temple during his 7 day service. This was considered a high honor, so he must have been well respected among the priests. And no priest could do this twice, so this must have been an incredible high point in his life, a once in a lifetime experience.
The incense was kept burning perpetually, just in front of the veil that separated the Holy place from the most Holy place. The lone priest would make incense offering every morning and every evening while the rest of the priests and worshippers stood outside of the Holy place in prayer. They would await his familiar blessing when he came out saying; “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up His countenance to you and give you peace.” Only this time, he was unable to give his blessing to the many, many people outside. You see, while Zacharias was making his incense offering, the Angel Gabriel appeared before him telling him not to be afraid, for he was bringing wonderful news from God.