31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 13 – an angel visits Zecharia

isaiah-scroll_lFour hundred years of silence from God span the time between the Old Testament writings and the New Testament.  No more prophets, no more prophecy.  What did it feel like?  Were the people awaiting the Messiah or had they given up?

Even though there is no further word from God during this period, prophecy is being fulfilled and much activity taking place.  Daniel’s prophecy for 3 of the 4 major kingdoms is fulfilled with amazing accuracy: Medo-Persia in 539 BC, Greece in 331 BC, and Rome in 63 BC.  The area of Jerusalem is now called Judea, the Romans replaced the Persians, and Latin and Greek are the new major languages.  The one temple of the Old Testament is now transformed into various synagogues, Pharisees, Sadducees, and Sanhedrin as a new form of Jewish government.

The Jews produce many writings during this period.  One is known as the Qumran scrolls, or Dead Sea scrolls, that are ironically discovered by shepherds in a cave in 1947.  The Qumran society lived around the Dead Sea area at the time the scrolls were written.  They believed in a “new covenant” or messianic theology that looked for the Messiah and followed the prophetic promises.

As we now come into the New Testament period, we have the writings of Luke, a medical doctor.  Luke is my favorite gospel book to read.  I like his style, and much of the Christmas story we hear today comes from Luke.  It is a more modern style of writing than what we previously read in the Old Testament.  Luke explains things in a very factual and methodical way.  Here is his account of what becomes the beginning of the fulfillment of the Messiah, the birth of the forerunner to Christ.

Luke 1:1-24
Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed them down to us. It also seemed good to me, since I have carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in an orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed.

In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest of Abijah’s division named Zechariah. His wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both were righteous in God’s sight, living without blame according to all the commands and requirements of the Lord. But they had no children because Elizabeth could not conceive, and both of them were well along in years.

When his division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, it happened that he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. At the hour of incense the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense.  When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and overcome with fear. But the angel said to him:

Do not be afraid, Zechariah,
because your prayer has been heard.
Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son,
and you will name him John.
There will be joy and delight for you,
and many will rejoice at his birth.
For he will be great in the sight of the Lord
and will never drink wine or beer.
He will be filled with the Holy Spirit
while still in his mother’s womb.
He will turn many of the sons of Israel
to the Lord their God.
And he will go before Him
in the spirit and power of Elijah,
to turn the hearts of fathers
to their children,
and the disobedient
to the understanding of the righteous,
to make ready for the Lord a prepared people.

“How can I know this?” Zechariah asked the angel. “For I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years.”

The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and tell you this good news.  Now listen! You will become silent and unable to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary. When he did come out, he could not speak to them. Then they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept making signs to them and remained speechless. When the days of his ministry were completed, he went back home.

After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived and kept herself in seclusion for five months.

I pray that you will seek God’s comfort, love and reassurance that He brings to us in the messages of angels and prophets proclaiming the good news of this Holy season of Christ’s birth.

* Merry Christmas *

31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 14 – Gabriel visits Mary

annunciation2Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel. – Isaiah 7:14 

Here we continue with the story of events told by Luke.

Luke 1:26-38
In the sixth month (of Elizabeth’s pregnancy), the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.  And the angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you.”  But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be.  Then the angel told her:

Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Now listen:
You will conceive and give birth to a son,
and you will call His name Jesus.
He will be great
and will be called the Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give Him
the throne of His father David.
He will reign over the house of Jacob forever,
and His kingdom will have no end.

Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?

The angel replied to her:
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore, the holy One to be born
will be called the Son of God.

And consider your relative Elizabeth—even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called childless.  For nothing will be impossible with God.”

“I am the Lord’s slave,” said Mary. “May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel left her.

I pray that you will believe this Christmas – believe that the God who created the world, and created you, can do anything.

* Merry Christmas

31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 25 – the angels announcement to the shepherds

christmasangelannouncingthebirthofjesus

“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

The angels first proclamation of the good news was to the shepherds who lived out in the fields of the same country, watching their flock at night.  The angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone all around them.

When the angels had left, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”

From Luke, chapter 2

Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice,
Let the sea and what fills it resound;
Let the plains be joyful and all that is in them!
Then shall all the trees of the forest exult.
Psalm 96:11-12

I pray for blessings to you this Christmas day!

* Merry Christmas *

31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 27 – Simeon and Anna in the temple

Rembrandt painting of Simeon at the Temple, painted in 1631

The first revelation that the Messiah had been born was told to the shepherds.  Next, (before the Wise Men arrived), the Messiah baby was recognized by Simeon and Anna in the temple.  Mary and Joseph had traveled to Jerusalem, about six miles north of Bethlehem, to present the baby Jesus to the Lord.  Luke tells us their story.

When the days of their purification (40 days) according to the law of Moses were finished, Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (just as it is written in the law of the Lord: Every firstborn male will be dedicated to the Lord) and to offer a sacrifice (according to what is stated in the law of the Lord: a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons – for a poor family.)

There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking forward to Israel’s consolation, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, he entered the temple complex. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform for Him what was customary under the law, Simeon took Him up in his arms, praised God, and said:

Now, Master,
You can dismiss Your slave in peace,
as You promised.
For my eyes have seen Your salvation.
You have prepared it
in the presence of all peoples—
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and glory to Your people Israel.

His father and mother were amazed at what was being said about Him. Then Simeon blessed them and told His mother Mary: “Indeed, this child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed— and a sword will pierce your own soul (testifying that Mary would suffer at seeing her son’s crucifixion)—that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (those of the Pharisees, Sadducees and others).

There was also a prophetess, Anna, a daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well along in years, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and was a widow for 84 years. She did not leave the temple complex, serving God night and day with fasting and prayers. At that very moment, she came up and began to thank God and to speak about Him to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

– Luke 2

I pray that you will get to know the Jesus that was sent as the Messiah to all the world.

* Merry Christmas *