Advent: The First Miracle Birth
“…it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:3-4)
“Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children 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 the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.'” (Luke 1:8–17)
“After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, ‘Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.'” (Luke 1:24–25)
Read: Luke 1:1-25
We can never overlook the author, audience, and purpose of each book of Scripture as we study. Thankfully, Luke is helpful for us in the beginning verses. He wrote an “orderly account” to a particular person, Theophilus, so that he “may have certainty concerning the things” he was taught (Luke 1:1-4). So, we know that Luke’s account of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection is in the format of a record. Luke is a doctor in his day job and a stickler for the facts. He was also a steadfast disciple of Jesus who devoted his life to making disciples and equipping the early churches. We can assume that Luke realized if he wrote an orderly account of Christ’s life then more than Theophilus would benefit from it. And, praise God, we can be confident that the Spirit of God moved him along as he penned the very Word of God. Our Lord’s sovereign hand has preserved the Bible for thousands of years so that we can have it now, in our language.
The first miraculous event that happened in the Christmas timeline was when an angel of Lord (Gabriel) spoke to Zechariah in the temple. He and his wife, Elizabeth “were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord” (Luke 1:6). It appears that they were also regularly in prayer before the Lord (Luke 1:13), and Zechariah was obeying the Old Testament commands for priests (Luke 1:8). Zechariah was fulfilling his priestly duties of burning incense on behalf of God’s people. And, suddenly, an angel appeared and started speaking to him on the right side of the altar. Naturally, he was overcome by fear. Luke’s detailed account of the event is marvelous!
The announcement of John’s birth:
- The Lord has heard Zechariah’s prayer.
- A son will be born to Elizabeth in her old age.
- You shall call him John.
- You will have joy and gladness.
- Many will rejoice at his birth.
- He will be great before the Lord.
- He must not drink wine or strong drink.
- He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, from birth.
- He will turn many Israelites back to the Lord.
- He will walk in the power and spirit of Elijah (the prophet).
- He will turn the hearts of fathers to their children (quotes Malachi 4:6).
- He will turn the disobedient toward the wisdom of the just.
- He will “make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
Zechariah’s response seems fairly natural: “How shall I know this?” But, the angel doesn’t give a direct answer. Rather, he reveals his identity and his general task from the Lord. As a priest who knew God’s Word, Zechariah would have likely recognized Gabriel as the same angel mentioned in Daniel 8:16 and 9:21. Gabriel essentially answers: you can know this will happen because of who I am and the glory of the God who sent me. Because Yahweh is Yahweh (the great ‘I AM’) and Gabriel stands in His presence, Zechariah can trust this prophecy. Still, the angel gave him an immediate sign to confirm the Lord’s plan. The Lord took away Zechariah’s ability to speak, until John’s birth (Luke 1:20-23). For nine months, he couldn’t speak a word!
“Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist…” (Matthew 11:11)
“I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John…” (Luke 7:28)
- How do you spend your “waiting”? Zechariah and the rest of Israel had not heard the Lord speak (even through a prophet) for 400 years. That’s a long time to wait patiently, but Zechariah and Elizabeth were being faithful to what they knew the Lord had last commanded. They longed for the Lord to reveal Himself. They longed for the Deliverer, but only heard silence.
- Think on the Lord’s grace in sending John the Baptist as the forerunner to Jesus’ birth. Before Jesus arrived on the scene, God sent John to prepare the way. Meaning that John spoke the words of God to the Israelites and raised the alarm that the Messiah was here. Even if someone missed all the other signs, they were going to hear it in plain language from John.
- God works through normal people (like Zechariah, Elizabeth, and John). A normal, obedient walk is the mark of a faithful life. They were humble and patient, and praised God for His goodness. God is working in and through you today if you are submitting your ways to Him. Faithfulness always matters.
Father, thank you for the life of Zechariah and Elizabeth. Thank you for their faithfulness to your Word and to your promise. But, I know they were just sinful people like me. I praise you for using them and using me in your work. You didn’t need them, you didn’t need John, and you don’t need me. Thank you, however, for choosing to use your people in your Kingdom plan. Teach me to wait patiently and hope for your return, and to point others to watch with eyes of faith.
Family Discipleship Time
- Who were Zechariah and Elizabeth? (They were Israelites in their older years. Zechariah was a priest who gave offerings to God in the temple, and Elizabeth was a relative of Mary. They would soon become the parents of John the Baptist.)
- What was Zechariah’s first reaction when the angel appeared? (He was afraid because a powerful angel from Heaven showed up suddenly.)
- What did the angel tell Zechariah? (That he and Elizabeth would have a baby son, even though they were much too old. This baby boy would be called John, and he would play a big role in telling people to turn back to God and follow Jesus.)
- Who was Elijah? (Elijah was one of the most important prophets in Israel’s history. He was a prophet in the Old Testament, and told people promises from God that Jesus would one day come.)
- Video – “Luke ch. 1-9” from The Bible Project
Free Advent Bible Study (2022)
Let’s stand back and marvel at God’s grace and sovereignty, and focus on God this Christmas. May we join with the angels singing, “Glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:14).
Join this 25-day Advent journey as we worship Christ and celebrate his coming.
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