Christ Enters My World: The Gospel of Luke

December 23, 2013

Today we come to the most beloved version of the Christmas story, the long narrative found in the gospel of Luke. The orderly account of extraordinary events shouts “Miracle! Miracle!” from the beginning of chapter 1 to the end of chapter 2, a total of 120 verses. The details, the characters, the cast of thousands (angels, shepherds, a crowded Bethlehem) surround the essential, sacred truth: God broke into history, conceiving Jesus in Mary’s womb, birthing him away from home (literally and figuratively) under difficult circumstances, and working the redemption that would save the world from its sin. We catch a glimpse of the impossibility of it all, from a human perspective, even as we see how God worked in the tiniest details to fulfill his promise of a Messiah.

There is so much material here, enough for a week (or more) of blogs, but there are two facets I would like to highlight on the topic of how Christ entered my world, according to Luke. For starters, he entered the world and my world by the Holy Spirit and in power.

The Holy Spirit. Luke’s gospel is infused with references to the Holy Spirit, which would make sense considering that his account takes us through the book of Acts as well. All the principal characters of Luke’s birth narrative have an encounter with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit fills them (John the Baptist, Mary, Elizabeth, Zechariah), informs them (shepherds, Simeon), guides them, and in particular is God’s “agent” (for want of a better word) to conceive Jesus within her womb. The reader gets the feeling that nothing in this story is happening by chance, but rather is orchestrated and conducted by the mighty hand of God. The resulting music is an exuberant chorus of praise from all who have felt the touch of God.

Power. The touch of God is electrifying and effective:  Zechariah is silenced until God proves his promise is true; Elizabeth conceives a child in her old age; lowly Mary is lifted out of obscurity to do the Lord’s amazing will; a child is born; the glory of the Lord shines; angels sing; a star rises. All this power that makes the impossible happen emanates from the one “helpless babe” (yeah, right) lying in the manger. The moral of the story? “Nothing is impossible with God” (1:37).

While I have not mentioned the Holy Spirit by name in the last few weeks, referring to God mostly in the first and second person of the Trinity, I realize that it’s time to highlight “the shy member of the Trinity” (Dale Bruner). We understand the Spirit, fully God and distinctly personal, to be the One in Three dwelling in our hearts by faith in Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul did much to enrich our theology of the Holy Spirit, in terms of this indwelling. But the “filling of the Holy Spirit” is also, and first, prominent in Luke in an all-encompassing way, since he also speaks of those overshadowed by the Almighty (1:35) and encountered (“come upon”). Along each of their paths, the characters of Luke’s nativity run into the Spirit, who takes over, takes charge, and effects the will of God.

When I tell my story to friends and visitors, about the out-from-left-field nature of my cancer and the radical right-turn it has required in my life, I feel it as an overshadowing of the Almighty. [To be clear, no, I do not believe God caused my cancer. In my gut, I feel it as a spiritual attack from God’s enemy.] What I mean is this: God, who was never absent or off-duty nor taken by surprise at the audacity of his opponent, moved in with the Spirit’s power to help me. God’s Spirit within me kept me in touch with God’s purposes in and through this new circumstance and immediately filled me with a sense of empowered calling (that new duty assignment I have spoken of before). The life God has given me to lead is a good life, accompanied and overshadowed by a good God who is making all things new.

I also am led to believe in miracles. For years (decades?) I have had a wood carving on my kitchen counter: “Expect a miracle.” I don’t know when or where I got it, but there it is right under the light switch above the counter. If nothing is impossible with God, then my healing is within God’s miracle-working capabilities. God, who is the great physician, is able to turn a nasty disease around. God, who is the Lord and Father of all creation, is able to control errant cells. God, who makes life out of nothing, doesn’t even need a contribution from me to do his work. God is in the business of doing the life-giving thing for the purpose of redemption and wholeness. God knows enough, sees enough, loves enough, and is good enough to right what is wrong in this world and in my body. This “reconciling the world to himself” is why he came and why his coming elicits such a chorus of praise!

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2 Responses to “Christ Enters My World: The Gospel of Luke”

  1. Steve N. Says:

    Mary, your blogs are hitting spiritual home runs. Your view (correct in my not so humble opinion) of the cancer being an attack by the enemy immediately made me think of the book of Job.

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