What is involved in your Christmas “preparations”? I would assume it probably involves stringing up more than a few lights. There was a humorous picture of two houses next to each other. One was extravagantly decorated and lit up. The other was dark except for a lighted arrow pointed at the bright house with one word in lights “DITTO.” If we are not careful we miss the effort and care exerted by the Lord to prepare for that first “lit up” Christmas.
Lu 1:79 “To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Luke wrote his Gospel under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit after he had carefully researched the life of Jesus Christ (1:1–4). The phrase “from the very first” can be translated “from above” (v. 3) and indicated that God guided Luke as he gathered information, organized it, and then wrote his book. His purpose was to give us an accurate and authoritative account of the birth, life, teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus.” How does seeing the light of God’s preparation enhance our appreciation of the incarnation?
According to Luke 1, the light of the incarnation spotlights two bright preparations:
1. Preparation for the Miraculous
The entire story of the incarnation involves the miraculous; this opening scene is no exception!
The miracle shines with providence. God alone was at the “head of the line” in preparing for incarnation!
God’s providence is first seen in the sequence (5-9). Zechariah was chosen by lot to be the priest who offered the incense. Because of the large number of priests this would be the only time in Zechariah’s life when he was allowed to perform this task. As elsewhere in Scripture, the sovereignty of God is stressed even in matters which seem like chance, as in the casting of a lot. The same God, who put the Christmas story together, longs to enlighten you to His plot for your past, present, and future!
Divine providence is also connected to the prayer (10-13). It may be inferred that Zechariah was praying for a son, or possibly even for the coming of the Messiah and that the birth of John would be a partial answer to his prayer. One of my preacher friends recently said, “It is a powerful to consider that God listens to the prayers of the weakest saints – if we can get it off our lips it will reach his ears.” The incarnation is God’s answer to all of our desperate prayers!
The miracle shines with proof. Someone recently defined the NFL as “Hours of commentary. Hours of commercials. Hours of instant replays. Minutes of action.” It is striking how much time and effort God invests into proving His promises!
God reveals proof in His promise (14-17). The angel not only gave the name of the son, but also detailed six aspects of John’s character in these verses. The promises connected to this herald, John the Baptist, are very specific. Why? God give great specifics and details in His promises so that we will easily recognize them when they are fulfilled!
God also validates proof in the area of speech (18-23). In this discussion between the angel of the Lord and Zacharias, God elevates His word. While Zacharias stood in the earthly temple, he is reminded that this angel speaking to him stood in the heavenly presence of God. (19) The Incarnation is not random; it is the precise fulfillment of God’s WORD! According to one commentator, “Was Zacharias asking for a sign when he said, ‘how shall I know this?’ If so, his request was answered; for he was dumb until his promised son was eight days old! Faith opens our lips in praise to God, while unbelief silences us.” Will you allow during this Christmas season the Lord to silence the human voices and turn up the spotlight on His word?
2. Preparation for the Mission
In the recent Summer Games (2012), Kim Rhode won the gold medal in skeet shooting making her the first American to win 5 Olympic medals in 5 consecutive Olympic Games. That’s a span of 20 years and not her only distinction. In the 2012 games, she hit 99 out of 100 skeet setting a new Olympic record and tying the world record for the event. Also, her first medal was in the 1996 Summer Games making her the youngest female gold medalist in Olympic shooting. How does one so distinguish themselves from the rest of the crowd? In an interview with the New York Times, Rhode firmly answers the question of how. She shoots anywhere from 500 to 1,000 rounds every day of the week year around. To save you the math, this is 3,000,000 plus shots with a shotgun. That’s 600,000 rounds per medal. When you step back and look at that number, the medals and accomplishments really are not that surprising. We prepare for what is a priority; it no different with the God in whose image we are made!
The mission shines with significance. This careful, divine preparation brightens our dark world with the truth that we matter!
The significance is first given in name (57-63). The record of John’s birth is given in a single verse (v. 57), with friends sharing in the joy. Several verses then focus on and emphasize the obedience of Zechariah and Elizabeth. The old couple was careful to follow the Law in the circumcision of the boy. Though others objected, Elizabeth said that he was to be named John, which Zechariah confirmed in writing. The Christmas story makes your identify, life, and ministry eternally significant!
Significance is also revealed in praise (64-66). The fact that Zechariah immediately was able to speak amazed the crowd. As was true of each person in the account, Zechariah was praising God. Word then spread through the whole hill country (in the Jerusalem area) that this was an unusual child. The people continued to note that the Lord’s hand was with him. Years later, when John began his preaching ministry, many went out from this district who no doubt remembered the amazing events surrounding his birth.” The ultimate motivation of the mind-boggling incarnation is to produce significant, eternal praise toward our God. Those who see the light shine the light! Later in Matthew 5:16, Christ states, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
The mission shines with salvation. Note the emphasis on salvation (vv. 69, 71, 77). Christmas does not put the spotlight on a sentimental or sensational story; it places it exclusively on the salvation of mankind!
This salvation is revealed in fulfillment (67-75). “He has visited and redeemed His people” (v. 68) is the major theme of this hymn of praise. The little boy being named (John means “grace of God”) was the forerunner of the Messiah who would bring salvation to lost sinners and one day deliver Israel from all her enemies. Zacharias took literally God’s covenants and promises with Israel and expected God to fulfill them. 2 Corinthians 1:20 reminds, “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” The incarnation boldly declares that God keeps every one of His promises.
This salvation is also manifested in divine revelation (76-80). The Dome of the Rock is not a mosque, but a Muslim shrine. It is the most famous Islamic site in Jerusalem. Like the Ka’ba in Mecca, it is built over a sacred stone. This stone is believed to be the place from which the Prophet Muhammad ascended into heaven during his Night Journey to heaven. It has an inscription-“God has no son.” The Christmas story spotlights that this statement cannot be true. Zechariah prophetically described the ministry John would have. Zechariah had understood the message of the angel, so he foretold that John would be the one to go on before the Lord to prepare the way for Him. God invested in this preparation of the light so that all people who not miss the salvation freely offered in the finished work of Jesus Christ. God coming near in such a prepared and tangible way declares that God doesn’t want anyone to miss His revealed salvation.
Reuters has story about a hospital in eastern China is offering fathers-to-be a chance to experience the pain of childbirth after several new moms complained they got little sympathy from their partners. Free sessions are held twice a week at Aima maternity hospital in Shandong province and about 100 men have signed up to be tortured. Most are expectant dads but there are thrill seekers too among the volunteers for “taster sessions”. For the simulations, pads attached to a device are placed above the abdomen, giving electric shocks that induce pain. The test subjects writhe in agony for up to five minutes as a nurse gradually raises the intensity on a scale of one to ten. Despite their obvious discomfort, the on-duty nurse said the simulations could never match the torment of actual childbirth. “Still, if men can experience this pain, then they’ll be more loving and caring to their wives.” We need to meditate more upon the painstaking preparation that went into not just the birth but the sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ!
In John 1, John the Baptist is said to be sent for people’s benefit to be an additional pointer to the truth of Jesus, the Revealer of the Father. People in sin are in such darkness that they need someone to tell them what is light. John’s goal was that all men might come to trust in Jesus.
Joh 1:6 “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.”
Joh 1:8 “He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.”
Will you appreciate more the divine preparation that led to your believing its miracles and receiving its mission?
Here the video format of this study.