Luke 1:1-25, 57-66.
December is a month of preparation, anticipation and excitement! Those are certainly the messages we hear through the different aspects of our “commercialised December”.
Let’s be honest, though… December is also filled with messages of busyness and stress, perhaps through expectations that express where we should be, who we need to spend time with, or how much we need to spend on gifts.
So, is December, and so therefore the Christmas and New Year season, a time that we approach gladly, nervously or reluctantly? Do we thrive from beginning to end, or simply do our best to survive? I’ve often felt that we’re not really supposed to ask those kinds of questions! We’re surrounded by so much that only points us towards the celebrations of the season. Yet, if we scratch the surface a little, the reality soon emerges of the pressures and strains that are there as well.
How, then, do we navigate these few weeks? How do we rightly balance the celebrating, with the busyness and pressures that will be there as well?
The birth narratives of the New Testament show us something of how that was faced by those who heard their Christmas messages for the first time. Their experience was so different to ours. They didn’t know what was coming, whereas we’re very familiar with the story and the characters involved. That means we need to work a bit to engage with God’s perspective on all that we’ll be thinking about.
As we do that through our Advent & Christmas teaching series, the words “Living the gospel” are still helpful for us to hold onto. They don’t stop us from being part of the celebrations going on all around us, but they do help us to think about how & why we’re living out the goodness of hope that Christ, our Saviour, has been born to us. Each part of the teaching series has a statement (message) that needs a response. Whether we thrive because of Christmas, or just about survive will depend on how we respond!
The gospel of Luke begins with him explaining that he’s to write an “orderly account” so that people will “know the certainty of the things” they’re taught (Luke 1:4). That’s a good place for us to start! Zechariah asked, “How can I be sure of this?”. This set him on a course of living the experience of the Lord’s activity in his life, and on to the birth of his son, John the Baptist. John’s place in the gospels is important. His declaration will be, “…one more powerful than I will come…” (Luke 3:16); “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). How are we living our own experience of the Lord – in doubt, or knowing the certainty of what we are taught?