Monday, December 1, 2008

Beginnings: things fulfilled among us (Luke 1-2)

Christmas. It comes around so quickly now. But remember when the wait was so long Remember your anticipation as the tree went up, as presents appeared, as your Mum baked… You knew what was coming and you looked forward to the joy of its arrival. Well, imagine a four hundred year wait. Imagine one thousand years. And then, an angel appears… and then another… and then the barren is with child… and the virgin… and you know what is coming. Wait. Anticipation. Joy. This is the atmosphere of these first two chapters of Luke; the very first Christmas.

Luke is careful to show that God is working in the events of this first Christmas in order to accomplish what he had promised. Luke, companion of Paul, made a careful investigation and produced an orderly account of ‘the things fulfilled among us’ (1:1). He has not just recorded amazing things, nor even just amazing things God has done, but things whose beginnings reach far back into history. At the end of the book, we find that Jesus himself understood that these things happened in fulfilment of what was written (e.g. 24:27; 24:44). The whole book[1] is recording for us the fulfilment of God’s great and precious promises, and these first two chapters ground the book firmly in these promises and leave us without doubt that their fulfilment has begun; without doubt, so that we may believe with certainty.

Luke also shows us that God is acting in these times because of his tender mercy (e.g. 1:50, 72, 78). It is not because of the righteousness of his people, but because of his love and faithfulness that he looks again with favour on his people and now acts to bring to fulfilment that which was promised.

God is working in these times because of his tender mercy to fulfil his great and precious promises. But what exactly is it that He is doing? What is it that he promised to do? This is what I want us to look for as we read these chapters. This first week, we shall read slowly through these very familiar chapters, also reading relevant passages from the Old Testament[2], so that we can build up a picture of what Luke tells us that God is doing in these days.

So, let’s read, think, pray and chat about that.

Questions to ask yourself as you read.

· What did God promise in the Old Testament?
· What is God doing here in these times?
· What do we learn about what God is like?
· Consider the people that are part of these events. What are they like? What are they expecting will happen next?
· Consider your place in these events. Few of you are Israelites. How are you spoken of? What has God done for you?

Recommended Daily Readings

· 1:1-4 Introduction (Isaiah 11-12; 52:13-53:12; 61:1-3)
· 1:5-25 The birth of John foretold (Malachi 2:17-3:5; 4:1-6)
· 1:26-38 The birth of Jesus foretold (2 Samuel 7:1-16)
· 1:39-56 Mothers (1 Samuel 2:1-10)
· 1:57-80 The birth of John (Genesis 12:1-3; 15:17-21; Isaiah 40:1-11; Jeremiah 23:5-6; 31:31-34)
· 2:1-40 The birth of Jesus (Isaiah 9:1-7; Isaiah 49:1-6)
· 2:41-52 The boy Jesus.

[1] Luke’s second book, Acts, continues this narrative.
[2] If you feel a little lost dabbing into the Old Testament like this, it might be helpful to read this overview of the Old Testament

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