at the Water's Edge

Living life and learning all I can along the way!

Reflections on Christmas: From the Gospel of Luke

In my women’s bible study that I’m leading this year, we are going through the gospel of Luke. The Bible contains four accounts of the life of Jesus (called “gospels” – meaning “good news”): Matthew, Mark, Luke and John -- and while there are a lot of similarities between them, each account was written with a different purpose and intent, which is reflected both in the style of writing and in the content the authors chose to include. The gospel of Luke contains many of the same stories of Jesus’ life as Matthew and Mark, but he often chooses to add some different details. For one, Luke was a doctor, and you can see how his profession influenced his writings by the extra detail he provides in some of Jesus’ healing miracles and even in just the orderly account of his book.
Luke was also writing to a primarily Gentile audience – meaning to people who were not from a Jewish background. Because of this, Luke includes lots of extra information and explanations regarding people, places and traditions that non-Jews might not have been familiar with…and, today, I find this particularly helpful for us who are so far removed from that time and culture. You will also find a common theme running throughout the book of Luke about how God intends to bring about a means of salvation for EVERYONE, Jews and Gentiles alike. Furthermore, Luke provides several stories surrounding Jesus’ birth that are not told by the other gospels. As a typical physician would, Luke did his research very thoroughly and brings us most of what we now know as “The Christmas Story”.

Luke’s “Christmas story” begins in the very first chapter, where Jesus’ birth is foretold to his mother, Mary, by the angel Gabriel.

“Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
–Luke 1:30-33

There are two important things that strike me about this. Firstly, one of the distinguishing characteristics of Luke’s gospel is his emphasis on the role of women. Women were not highly esteemed in that day and culture – but Luke includes many details about women in Jesus’ time (including Mary) that are not mentioned in the other gospels and also tells us about Jesus’ own respect for women. Circling back to Mary—she did not come from some kingly family, but was a poor, humble, probably teenage girl – and it was this young woman that God chose to use to bring about the birth of his son Jesus.

And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
--Luke 1: 46-49

The other thing I want to make mention of is the appearance of an angel, and Gabriel, at that – who tells us that he stands in the very presence of God (Luke 1:19). I think sometimes we get the impression that the appearance of angels was not so unusual then, or they just become a part of the “story” and we forget what an incredible and terrifying experience that would be. There are several accounts of angels appearing to people in this gospel, particularly around Jesus’ birth, but I think one of the reasons that these events were recorded is precisely because that type of experience is so rare. We also tend to think of angels as light and peaceful beings, perhaps even playing a harp (just check out my nativity picture!). Somehow, I don’t think that’s the impression that Gabriel or the other angels in the Christmas story gave off…because every time an angel appears, the first thing they have to say is, “do not be afraid.” Angels are magnificent and powerful messengers of God.

Luke chapter 2 records another appearance of angels – right after Jesus’ birth, to the nearby shepherds.

"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.'

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

'Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.'”
--Luke 2:8-14

Shepherds, like women, were not highly regarded. That God should choose these men to be among the first to know about Jesus would likely have been startling for the people of that time. But God has a history of choosing the lowly and the humble for his great purposes, for he himself is a humble servant, as is exemplified in the life and death of Jesus. That God should limit himself by coming in the form of a person, starting as a baby, should come as a shock to us all. Jesus, “who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:7-8)

This is part of what makes Christianity different from any other religion. Other religions and worldviews say, “do this, do that” and perhaps you can reach heaven, nirvana, utopia, please the gods, or what have you. Christianity says that our failure is so great, that the chasm that sin created between God and man is so vast that there is nothing we can “do” to ever bridge that gap. So, God intervened. God sent Jesus into the world for the very purpose of restoring our relationship with Him and giving us life instead of death.

Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10).” This is the reason we celebrate Christmas, Jesus’ earthly birth: because it ultimately led to his atoning sacrifice through which we can have life and have it abundantly.

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Hi there! My name is Dana and I live in West Michigan with my husband, Tom and our dog Copernicus. I created this space as a place to share the things I learn along this journey I call life. I work in marketing and I'm a sort of Jane of All Trades, interested in all things nature, gardening, cooking, exploring and learning new things. This blog is a conglomeration of my interests, hobbies, life and life lessons. Thanks for stopping by!