The book of Luke is dear to us all. The Lord revealed himself in his nativity in a very detailed manner. A portion is in Matthew and together with Luke we have as much as God wanted us to know about the first Christmas. Times were harder than now, but some things are the same. Herod brought an uneasy peace between the Jews and Rome. Caesar Augustus was lenient enough not to fight them constantly. Economically the times were hard.
A turning point happened for Israel and the Roman Empire; in fact, it was a turning point for the entire world. It was the fulfillment of the plan of God, the promise first given in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned. The first promise was given by God to the serpent. I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. God was telling the serpent that a descendent from the woman’s seed—a virgin—would conceive.
Before this conception another conception would happen. By the working of God and his blessing upon an elderly couple named Zacharias and Elisabeth, another son would be born. She was long past the age to conceive. God worked a miracle. Everyone talked about this old woman who had previously been barren now expecting a baby.
A hundred miles away a young couple named Joseph and Mary was engaged to each. The same angel who visited Zacharias visited Mary. The angel Gabriel told her that she would conceive but not through Joseph. Hers would come through the Holy Ghost. Mary was chosen to be incarnated with God’s son Jesus.
Because of these two events, the world is still on the map. The gospel is still preached. This is how it all began.
Luke 1: 5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.7 And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.8 And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course,9 According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.19 And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.20 And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple.22 And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless.23 And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,25 Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.39 And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda;40 And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.45 And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.
So that’s how it began and here tonight is where it led. We know him because he first knew us. When he was incarnated in Mary’s womb, he knew us. The very one we know as Savior is here. Zacharias and Elisabeth’s son was six months older than Jesus; he would go before him to prepare the way. Jesus’ birth was inconspicuous. John’s was the talk of the town. His name means “God is bringing grace.” At his birth the family wanted to name him Zacharias after his father, but that was not the way it was to be. Zacharias had been unable to speak since the angel’s visit. He motioned for something to write on and proceeded to write that his name would be John. Immediately he was able to speak.
Three months later Jesus would be born. Only his mother Mary and his earthly father Joseph were present. Angels gave the news. A star was in the sky. Look at where this has taken us. Luke 1 is part of our history. I’m glad for how it began. You and I were in the heart of God. An old couple’s son paved the way. We trail the way witnessing that he has come. It has been over 2,000 years. We know it’s true. He lives in my heart. He hears my prayers. He is just as real as when he was born in that stable. He was born so we could be born again.
It’s up to us to continue the story. Trust him. Shine the light of Christ. When we believe, there will always be Christmas. We too can say glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.