One of the most read passages during the holiday season is Luke’s account of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. He writes to provide Theophilus, an influential leader of his time, a historical account on the person of Jesus. In the first chapter, Zacharias, a righteous priest, was told by an angel while serving in the temple that his barren wife in her old age would give birth to a son who would serve as a forerunner to the promised Messiah. Because Zacharias was doubtful, the angel Gabriel told Zacharias that he would be unable to speak until these things had been fulfilled. Sure enough, coming out of the temple, he was in fact mute, and would remain mute until the day Elizabeth gave birth to their son. Months later, the child was born and family and friends assumed the newborn would be named after his father, as was custom, but Elizabeth said, “No indeed; but he shall be called John” (v. 60). Flabbergasted, this concerned community wanted to know from the father, what would he name his newborn son? Taking a tablet, he wrote: “His name is John” (v. 63). At once, his tongue was loosed, no longer was he mute, and he began to praise God. Filled by the Holy Spirit, Zacharias prophesied and said, “And you, child [John], will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways; to give His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God” (vv. 76-77). And just what would this promised Messiah do, this Jesus to miraculously be born of the Virgin Mary? He would come to “shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet in the way of peace” (v. 79).
Do you see it? Jesus came, as the Light of the world, to shine upon those who are lost, stumbling in the dark, and in the grips of death itself. Jesus came such that Mankind might experience light, life, and peace. Later in chapter 4, after His baptism and trial in the desert, Jesus went to the synagogue in Nazareth, opened the scroll of Isaiah that was handed to Him, and read: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed” (v. 18). Handing back the scroll and sitting down, He said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (v. 21).
Jesus came to preach to the poor (both monetarily and spiritually), release those held captive by the things of this world, and take away their blindness that they might see and know that He is the Messiah, setting free those oppressed by sin, shame, and guilt. Friends, this is indeed good news… the radical, life-breathing gospel message that we are privileged to receive AND share with others. Who would have thought that this child, of seemingly great insignificance and born by suspicious means, would one day become the Christ indeed and Savior of the world – “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24). Praise be to God for His incredible mercy and love poured out such that “He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13).
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!