God’s Word of Joy
Luke 1:1-25: Luke’s Gospel opens with a prologue in which he sets forth his claim “to write an orderly account” concerning Jesus, and Luke begins by recounting the events surrounding the birth of John the Baptist. In today’s reading, the angel Gabriel appears to Zechariah and announces that, even though he and his wife Elizabeth are advanced in years, Elizabeth will bear a son who is to be named John. Because Zechariah exhibits doubt about the angel’s message, he is rendered unable to speak. When Elizabeth becomes pregnant, she declares that the Lord has taken away her public disgrace.
Many people have done their best to write a report of the things that have taken place among us. 2They wrote what we have been told by those who saw these things from the beginning and who proclaimed the message. 3And so, Your Excellency, because I have carefully studied all these matters from their beginning, I thought it would be good to write an orderly account for you. 4I do this so that you will know the full truth about everything which you have been taught.
The Birth of John the Baptist Is Announced
5 During the time when Herod was king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife’s name was Elizabeth; she also belonged to a priestly family. 6They both lived good lives in God’s sight and obeyed fully all the Lord’s laws and commands. 7They had no children because Elizabeth could not have any, and she and Zechariah were both very old.
8One day Zechariah was doing his work as a priest in the Temple, taking his turn in the daily service. 9According to the custom followed by the priests, he was chosen by lot to burn incense on the altar. So he went into the Temple of the Lord, 10while the crowd of people outside prayed during the hour when the incense was burned. 11An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar where the incense was burned. 12When Zechariah saw him, he was alarmed and felt afraid. 13But the angel said to him, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son. You are to name him John. 14How glad and happy you will be, and how happy many others will be when he is born! 15 John will be great in the Lord’s sight. He must not drink any wine or strong drink. From his very birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, 16and he will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 He will go ahead of the Lord, strong and mighty like the prophet Elijah. He will bring fathers and children together again; he will turn disobedient people back to the way of thinking of the righteous; he will get the Lord’s people ready for him.”
18Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know if this is so? I am an old man, and my wife is old also.”
19 “I am Gabriel,” the angel answered. “I stand in the presence of God, who sent me to speak to you and tell you this good news. 20But you have not believed my message, which will come true at the right time. Because you have not believed, you will be unable to speak; you will remain silent until the day my promise to you comes true.”
21In the meantime the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he was spending such a long time in the Temple. 22When he came out, he could not speak to them, and so they knew that he had seen a vision in the Temple. Unable to say a word, he made signs to them with his hands.
23When his period of service in the Temple was over, Zechariah went back home. 24Some time later his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and did not leave the house for five months. 25“Now at last the Lord has helped me,” she said. “He has taken away my public disgrace!”
Today’s Key Verse: Luke 1:15
“John will be great in the Lord’s sight … From his very birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
How does the angel Gabriel describe John and John’s mission (verses 15-17)? In a society that views having children as being blessed by God (Psalm 127:3-5), Elizabeth’s barrenness is seen as a sign of public disgrace. Childless women were even the object of scorn (see 1 Samuel 1:6). Elizabeth’s pregnancy demonstrates God’s graciousness in reversing her position from one of shame to one of divine favor. Can you recall others in Israel’s history who experienced God’s favor by means of a child? (see Genesis 18:1-15; 21:1-8; Judges 13; 1 Samuel 1).
Holy God, teach me to be obedient to your Word. I trust in your promises. Open my eyes to your daily blessings. Guide me this day in the way of your truth. Amen.
Luke 1:26-56: The birth of Jesus is announced.