Read & Reflect
We now come to the New Testament account of Jesus. As you reflect over these passages, consider that the coming of Jesus is a part of God’s larger story of redemption—its central, and most startling, chapter. The manner of his birth and the purpose of his coming have revolutionary implications for our understanding of who God is and for why the gospel is such good news for sinful man.
Luke 1:1–18 (ESV)
1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 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, 4that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 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. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 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. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 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.”
18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”
- Four hundred years after the prophecy in Malachi, God finally acts by sending John, the promised messenger who will be a forerunner to prepare people for the coming of Jesus. Reflect on what this reveals about God and how he works.
- Reflect on the description of John’s life. What aspects of John’s mission are mine?
- What are some steps I can take to more faithfully carry out this mission in my life?
Notice the irony of Zechariah’s reaction to Gabriel’s words. As one commentator writes: “Here is a story of a priest who was praying fervently but who was not prepared for his prayers to be answered. He was officiating in the sanctuary itself, but he did not really expect to experience God’s presence. […] We go through the motions of prayer and worship, but we hardly expect to meet God in the midst of our daily activities – not even in the holy moments of worship.” 
- What can I do to guard against simply going through the “motions of prayer and worship”?
- Gratitude Journal & Prayer of Thanksgiving
- Write down three things that you are thankful for.
-  R. Alan Culpepper, “The Gospel of Luke,” New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. IX (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1995), 49.