The Christmas Story — But perhaps not as you know it.

There is no Christmas tree, decorations or baubles; nor are there any tree lights, tinsel or hanging decorations. Neither is there a Santa Claus with reindeer pulling a sled through the sky so that he can magically come down the chimney to give you presents. There isn’t even a Christmas dinner with turkey and the obligatory brussel sprouts, followed by Christmas pudding and indigestion because you’ve eaten too much.

The truth is that none of these things have any part to play in the Christmas story, as God tells it. This Christmas story has none of those things. In fact, even Jesus doesn’t have anything to say in this Christmas story as He wasn’t born at this time. What this Christmas story has is different from all of those things. What it does have is what God wants to say to you.

Many theologians believed Luke wrote both this gospel and the book of Acts. One general theory is that we should read them as a two-volume book. If you accept this approach, you probably conclude that Luke’s gospel is the telling of the events that lead up to the principal thing that Jesus so often spoke about - The Kingdom of God.

Added to that, the general belief is that Luke used the gospel of Mark as a starting place and also as a reference to his gospel. It was never Lukes intent to change the narrative, rather to add to it, so we might have a better understanding of the Father’s heart in the story.

With that frame in mind, we must should seek to discover what Luke included; what Mark omitted and find the Father’s heart in the gospels. With all things, the best place to start is at the beginning.

When you compare Luke’s writing to how other gospel writers approach the subject, you can see a vast difference. For instance, look at the opening words of each of the gospels:

  • ◆  Matthew - This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah.

  • ◆  Mark - The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • ◆  John - In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God.

    It is immediately clear that the intent of the various writers is to bring you straight into contact with Jesus.

The very opening statements of Luke in his gospel are very different to the others. This vast difference gives an understanding of his intent. Just look at what he says:

  • ◆  Verse 1 - “many have undertaken to draw up an account...”

  • ◆  Verse 2 - “Just as they were handed down to us by those...”

  • ◆  Verse 3 - “I too decided to write an orderly account...”

  • ◆  Verse 4 - “So that you may know...”

    As you can see, in the whole of Luke’s first paragraph he draws your focus to the importance of the telling, and of the retelling of the gospel story. This is not surprising when you consider that one key factor running throughout the book of Acts is the importance of evangelism in building the church.

    The importance of evangelism is also key to Jesus’ mission. Scripture tells us that, ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.’ Jesus said of Himself, in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” His focus was on the lost sheep of Israel. However, when He commissioned us, He did not give us that limited focus. Instead, He gave us a far wider field within which to work.

    The last words of Jesus in the gospel of Matthew are, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

    The last words of Jesus in the gospel of Mark are, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

    We shouldn’t find it at all strange then that Luke (who is an evangelist at heart) should begin his gospel where the others finished. Don't forget, Luke worked

closely with Paul. When Paul was in prison in Rome, he wrote about Luke in his letter to Colossians describing him as his dear friend; Paul wrote in his second letter to Timothy defining him as his only companion; Paul wrote in his letter to Philemon describing him as a fellow worker. Instead of leaving it to the very end to give the instruction to believers, Luke begins by letting his readers know, at the very outset, that there is a job to be done.

Moving on from his initial call to evangelism, Luke holds back from telling us what to evangelise. Rather, he gives us a prophetic account of what God chooses His evangelist to look like. The foretelling of the birth of John the Baptist in Luke 1:5-25.

In this relatively small snapshot of a background to John’s family, Luke draws your attention to four key points.

  • ◆  Human life at its best:

    • ⁃  wonderful parents,

    • ⁃  a blameless lifestyle,

    • ⁃  a sacred calling,

    • ⁃  a good job, a position of high privilege.

  • ◆  The sadness and weaknesses of a troubled heart:

    • ⁃  the personal affliction of being childless,

    • ⁃  the state of the nation being far from God,

    • ⁃  fear and doubt when the angel speaks.

  • ◆  God’s divine compassion for human life:

    • ⁃  filling broken hearts with joy and gladness,

    • ⁃  sending a redeemer for the nation,

    • ⁃  the prophetic word over their son to be,

    • ⁃  dealing with unbelief at the right time.

  • ◆  God’s plan for His evangelist:

    • ⁃  Verse 13, the destiny of his life, naming him, would change the destiny

      that man had for him. The naming of John was a command from the angel - everyone wanted him to be named after his father, which meant that he would be doing the same as his father. Instead, he was meant to be doing something very different indeed. John - the favour of Jehovah.

    • ⁃  Verse 14, the effect of his life, many will rejoice because of him.

  • ⁃  Verse 15, the commitment in his life, he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, not alcohol.

  • ⁃  Verse 16, the purpose of his life, the work of John was to prepare and turn men’s hearts towards God

  • ⁃  Verse 17, the power of his life. He will go before the LORD in the spirit and the power of Elijah.

    These are the key points Luke brought out in writing this passage of Scripture. Even choosing from the best of the best, there are still flaws that need to be sorted out and God does not allow that to get in His way. It isn’t important where you come from; it isn’t important what your flaws are; God is more than able to do His will, if you will let Him.

    Having defined the evangelist, Luke went on to define who he was to evangelise about. The birth of Jesus foretold in Luke 1:26-38. God’s chosen vessel; the Son of God. His very existence was to fulfil so many Scriptures that there is not enough space here to do justice to that.

    However, there are two points of immense interest here:

  • ◆  in verse 36, the angel told her about Elizabeth and her pregnancy,

  • ◆  in verse 38, Mary’s response - “May Your word to me be fulfilled.”

    When God has something for you to do, he will connect you with the people who can help you most. However, our response must be the same as Mary’s - “May Your word to me be fulfilled.” If we don't respond to the calling of God in faith, what are we really saying to our God?

    The people that God connects you with can often speak prophetically into your life, Just as Elizabeth did to Mary In versus 39-45. The encouragement of words like that to cause to rise in your true wisdom in God’s calling on your life. Read for yourself the song of Mary in verses 46-56. As you read that song, you will quickly see that her understanding was far greater than what the angel had said to her.

    You can read on from there about the birth of John the Baptist and how that caused the surrounding people to ask questions about what it meant. You could also read Zachariah’s song and see how John's father answered those questions for the people and more.

You might think to yourself that this is just a history lesson, and in many ways you might be right. All of this is history. However, think on this for a moment, what did the prophet say in Hosea 4:6, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.”

Jesus sent the 12 disciples ahead of him to everywhere that he was going to preach the good news. After that, he sent out the 72 in exactly the same way to do exactly the same thing. As we have already read in the gospel of Matthew and of the gospel of Mark, it is his heart to send out you to do exactly the same. Just look at his words in the gospel of John 14:12, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”

Scripture is very clear on this when it says in 2 Corinthians 5:20, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” either side of this Scripture are two very important things that, I feel, are often missed. They are as follows: God has committed to us the message of reconciliation... Be reconciled to God.

I know there are many people who are convinced that they are not able to evangelise. However, if that is you, there is always someone to help you step out. Just ask Jesus what He wants you to do each day and He will show you how and when. A good start would be to begin saying to people you meet, “Hello, how are you?” and you will soon see how quickly they respond to an encouraging voice. God has asked us to do this, so let us follow His lead.