Day Two Hundred Ninety-Three, Luke 1, Matthew 1, Luke 2
The first time I ever became semi-serious about trying to read my Bible on any kind of a semi-regular basis, I think I was in high school, probably 14 years old or so. I heard a preacher at a youth rally encourage us to start reading our bibles. He said, "If you don't know where to start, just start reading Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. When you finish, go back to the beginning and read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John again. Maybe even do it a third time." I think that was pretty good advice, and I ended up doing it several times over the next few years. It wasn't until I was in college that I began to take a serious look at much of the rest of the New Testament, much less the Old. But for those several years that I was in high school, I read on a regular basis and was pretty heavily immersed in the gospels...as much as you can imagine a high-schooler being immersed in the gospels, anyway.
To my surprise, I never got bored. Each book is written from a different perspective, and for a different purpose, so the styles are very different among the four of them. But beyond that, I always noticed different things each time I read them. It was this process that later helped to completely ground my belief that "the Word of God is living and active." Indeed, He's said different things to me each time I've taken a look at His gospels, and I'm excited to be in this part of Project 4:4, because I have full confidence that this time will be no different.
There is SO MUCH encompassed in studying the gospels and in studying the life of our Lord, God in the flesh, that it is extremely hard for me to write about, just because there are so many angles from which to approach the subject. But over the past week, I've been reading, trying to hear what message is being spoken to me from His Word this time around. So far the message jumping off the page at me is the message of the all-sufficiency of God, the Great I AM. That seems to be the easiest angle for me to approach this material right now, so pardon me if I sound like a broken record by the end of this look at the gospels. This is just what I'm hearing from Him right now.
The first example I see of this in today's reading is when Elizabeth actually becomes pregnant. She had been visited by an angel earlier, telling her that she would bear a child who would be the forerunner to the Christ. When this actually happens, she says, "The Lord has done this for me. In these days He has shown His favor and taken away my disgrace among the people."
Next we see the angel Gabriel pay a visit to Mary, to announce that she will be the mother of the Messiah. "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God."
When Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth, the baby in Elizabeth's womb leaps for joy, and Elizabeth says, "Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished."
When Mary praises God, she says, "His mercy extends to those who fear Him, from generation to generation," and Zechariah's praise to God includes, "He has come and has redeemed His people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us...to enable us to serve Him without fear in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days."
When Jesus is born, the all-sufficient, Great I AM is wrapped in cloths and laid "in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, 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, good will toward men.'"
(I had to switch back to the KJV for that passage, simply because in that form, it's one of my favorite passages in all the Bible. I can't read/listen to that portion of Luke 2 without hearing the voice of Charlie Brown's friend Linus echoing throughout the auditorium, as he explains what Christmas is all about. Has to be one of my best memories from as young as 4 or 5 years old. One of my absolute favorite Christmas TV specials as well, by the way. But I digress...)
Finally, when the baby Jesus is taken to the Temple, He is held by a man named Simeon. It had been revealed to Simeon by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Christ. As Simeon took the baby in his arms, he said, "Sovereign Lord, as You have promised, You now dismiss Your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel."
In closing, can I just say that God keeps His promises. All the time. Can I get an 'Amen' on that?