Food for the Soul
Food for the Soul
2 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register. 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
These first seven verses of Luke 2 tell us about the birth of Jesus – they also properly introduce us to the man who would be his earthly Father, Jospeh. As I’ve read these few verses, I keep hearing the words “humble & wise”. Joseph could have walked away from Mary, but instead he chose to remain with her and raise her unborn child as his own. He chose to put aside what others would have been thinking and saying to him about Mary and the baby. He chose to take Mary as his family, and register her as his family as part of the census. To literally stand up and be counted for what he believed in…
Would I do the same if put into a situation similar to this? To truly put my life on the line for my faith. To partner God, even if I couldn’t see what the outcome would be?
Written by Mandy Miller
67 His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: 68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. 69 He has raised up a horn[a] of salvation for us in the house of his servant David 70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), 71 salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us— 72 to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant, 73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham: 74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear 75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. 76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, 77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven 79 to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” 80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit[b]; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.
God answers their question “What then is this child going to be?” (v66), and this time Zechariah doesn’t doubt. He speaks those words out in a beautiful testimony about John and the authority with which he would testify about Jesus.
The first third is about what God is doing through Jesus. He says God has come, has redeemed, has raised up salvation (all past tense), although Jesus has not been born yet and it is still many years until Jesus will complete the redemption on the cross. God has set his plan in motion so the outcome is certain.
The second part is about God’s demonstrated faithfulness in rescuing his people so that they could serve Him in holiness and righteousness.
The last part is about John’s part in all this: speaking for God, preparing the way, and making His salvation known. And this because Jesus “the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us”.
The challenge for me is to make my purpose and significance, my blessing, like John’s: mostly about Jesus and about God’s faithfulness and a bit about the part I will play in what God is doing.
After this fabulous blessing, John had more than a quarter of a century of growing and becoming strong in the spirit before the time was right for him to appear publicly. God’s timing was all important for John’s role to testify about Jesus. God’s timing is vital for me too.
Written by David Cornell
57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy. 59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.” 61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.” 62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.
As I read this passage I am arrested by the fact that as soon as Zechariah could speak again, he was praising God. I wonder how I would have behaved in a similar situation? If I had been struck dumb a year previously, what would have been the first words out of my mouth? Would I have wanted to take the first opportunity to explain to everyone around me what had happened to me? Would I have wanted to complain about the fact that I hadn’t been able to speak for a year or so? Would I have wanted to tell everyone the destiny of my son that had been foretold by an angelic visitation? I wonder what my first words would have been?
Zechariah’s first words are praises towards God. I imagine some of that is relief at being able to speak again. However, I do believe that Zechariah has had some time to think about Gabriel’s visit and about how everything that had been foretold so far had come true. I think Zechariah would have been experiencing a profound sense of awe and excitement over seeing the rest of the prophecy fulfilled in the life of his son.
“Lord, regardless of my situation, whether good or bad or indifferent, may my first words be ones of praise towards you.”
Written by Jen Irving
46 And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. 50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. 51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful 55 to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.” 56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.
Mary has seen the evidence of the angel’s words to Elizabeth and has moved into a fuller belief of the truth of what God is doing in her life. She is not dismayed by the many possible negative implications – rejection by others for being pregnant out of wedlock – but is overcome by praise for God. She starts with praise for what He’s done in her own life, and moves into praise for His hand over the nations and His promises.
Do I look for the positive in life’s challenges? I am encouraged by this passage to remember God’s promises and recognise his hand in my life more, and to ‘let my hair down’ in praise for Him.
Written by Megan Cornell
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
Mary goes to Elizabeth her cousin’s house.
Both women are pregnant, Elizabeth with John the Baptist, Mary with
Elizabeth, with seemingly no prior knowledge speaks to Mary telling her
of the blessing her child will be.
Her final statement “You are blessed because you believed that the Lord
would do what He said” is a statement of transforming power. Think of
it, blessing comes as a result of obedience. Straight forward, powerful,
principled and essential for us.
Father, help me to live a life of obedience to your Word, for then I am
in the place of blessing.
Written by Richard Botta
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” 34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.” 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
“For no word from God will ever fail.” Lk 1:37
I remember that I am favoured too because God has shown me grace – His unmerited favour.
Where am I resisting God’s call and holding onto the ideas and plans I have for my life, instead of surrendering to what He wants for me?
What words has he spoken over me? They will not fail. They will prosper.
I am Your servant. May it be to me according to Your word. Lk 1:38
Written by Lyndall Gourlay
5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old. 8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” 19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.” 21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. 23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”
The story of faithful Zechariah and Elizabeth is a beautiful account of what happened in the lead up to the birth of Jesus. The account of John the Baptist’s parents gives amazing insight into the way that God can relate to children: Verse 15 says that “he will be filled with the Holy Spirit” even before he is born! What a revelation of God’s presence in the life of a child. It is my prayer that more children would know God the Holy Spirit from even before their birth.
The challenge to me in verse 20, is that Zechariah did not believe the words of the angel Gabriel, even though it is recorded that he is righteous man, and one who has lived in service as a priest. If a man of this calibre doubts such an encouraging promise, will I have the faith to believe God when he calls me?
Written by Justin Ware
1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled[a] among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
Luke begins the account of his gospel, not discounting the work of others but rather wanting to add to it. A decision he made to investigate, find eyewitnesses & verify everything so that Theophilus – (whether a friend, employer or Roman official is unsure) – would know the truth about Jesus. Who Jesus was, what He did & why He did it. What an amazing undertaking … the time & lengths Luke went to get this done we’ll never know but Jesus & the Gospel were so important to him that he wanted to make sure he left an accurate record for Theophilus and ultimately for us.
What a challenge to me … Would I be prepared to do the same for those in my life who know only in part or do not know at all about Jesus?
Written by Suzie Hodgson
Phone: +61 2 9875 0300
PO Box 2744,
Carlingford NSW 2118
PHYSICAL LOCATION SUSPENDED
Carlingford High School Hall,
547 North Rocks Rd, Carlingford
NSW, Australia 2118
PHYSICAL LOCATION SUSPENDED
Carlingford High School Hall,
547 North Rocks Rd, Carlingford
NSW, Australia 2118