(We will be skipping some verses in Luke 1 today. We will look at them in tomorrow’s devotions.)
Luke 1: 26 – 45, 56 NLT
“In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings (or rejoice), favoured woman! The Lord is with you!” (some manuscripts add ‘Blessed are you among women’.)
29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”
34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. 37 For the word of God will never fail.” (some manuscripts say ‘For nothing is impossible with God’)
38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.
39 A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town 40 where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. 41 At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
42 Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. 43 Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? 44 When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. 45 You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.” …
56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back to her own home.”
Another incredible visit by an angel!!! Again, try to put yourself in Mary’s shoes. She is a young woman, likely a teenager. She would be busy helping her mother run the household, and looking forward to her upcoming marriage. Then … an angel appears? I actually have a hard time imagining what that would be like; it’s so far beyond any experience I have ever had. Verse 29 says she was “confused and disturbed”. I should guess so! How do you stay calm when an angel shows up at your side?
We know that this chapter in Luke describes a momentous time in all of history. God coming to earth in human form is a catalytic event. But that moment in history was during a time when God had been silent for 400 years. There had been no prophets during that time, and Israel had experienced being ruled by several different foreign powers. If you are interested in finding out more about those 400 years, go to gotquestions.org and ask “What were the 400 years of silence?” So, this time in history was not a time where Zechariah and Mary were used to seeing God at work, or sensing God’s blessing on Israel. This moment in Mary’s life would have been inconceivable.
Mary, like Zechariah, asks a question. “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” (v. 34) The angel’s response to the question is interesting. With Zechariah, the angel declared his name and position in heaven and then told Zechariah he would be deaf and dumb until the baby’s birth. With Mary, the angel explains how she will become pregnant, and tells her Elizabeth’s story as proof that God does miraculous things. Then when Mary meets Elizabeth, Elizabeth affirms that Mary will be the mother of her Lord. Later, the angel appears to Joseph and assures him that Mary’s pregnancy is from God – so in talking with Joseph, Mary’s experience will again be validated. For Mary there seems to be patience, explanation, and encouragement.
God knows us intimately. He knows exactly what we need. Do we need something to get us out of a rut, and spur us on to greater faith? Zechariah had been a priest for a long time, and he likely had everything figured out. He was devoted to God, but the requirements of his job likely had him in long-time routines. Or are we young in our faith? God is so patient with us as we learn how to include him in our lives. Like with Mary, he can find ways to assure us that he is with us.
Luke 1: 57 – 66, 80 NLT
57 When it was time for Elizabeth’s baby to be born, she gave birth to a son. 58 And when her neighbours and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her.
59 When the baby was eight days old, they all came for the circumcision ceremony. They wanted to name him Zechariah, after his father. 60 But Elizabeth said, “No! His name is John!”
61 “What?” they exclaimed. “There is no one in all your family by that name.” 62 So they used gestures to ask the baby’s father what he wanted to name him. 63 He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God.
65 Awe fell upon the whole neighbourhood, and the news of what had happened spread throughout the Judean hills. 66 Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, “What will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way.” …
80 John grew up and became strong in spirit. And he lived in the wilderness until he began his public ministry to Israel.
John’s birth was a great celebration. The people where they lived were so excited for Elizabeth – to have this baby when no one expected it was possible at her age. His circumcision took place likely in the temple 8 days later. Everyone was sure he would be named after his father, a custom of that day. But no, both parents said his name was John. In fact, when Zacharias confirmed the baby’s name was John, he was able to speak again. (We’ll look at what he said in tomorrow’s devotions.) Again, that astounded all the people who witnessed this amazing event. People all around that area were talking about John’s birth. They knew that God must be at work.
Have you ever experienced God at work in your life? It doesn’t have be some huge, well-publicized event. The events of Luke 1 are amazing. They are the beginning of God coming to this world. And they caused people in the area to talk and reflect on what God was doing. But just because God’s moments in your life seem so insignificant in comparison to Luke 1, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share them with the people around you. God is at work within each one of us. He wants us to share that story so those around us will also reflect on what they hear, and be drawn to God themselves.
Be brave. God is with you.
Our song for today is Jesus Loves Me by Chris Tomlin