Christmas is a wonderful time of year. Christmas is a very special time for Christians, it is a time of celebration. Just what Christians should be celebrating on Christmas is the real question. I was brought up believing that Christmas was the day that Christ was born. Well the Bible tells us a different story. The Bible tells us that December 25 was the conception of Jesus Christ, not His birth. Should Christians even celebrate Christmas? Yes because it is the day that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ began to dwell with mankind. To set the time line that December 25 was the conception of Jesus Christ not His birth, we are going to start with the conception of someone else. We are going to start with John the Baptist. The forerunner to Jesus Christ.
V1 Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,
The things that happened to Jesus Christ when He was walking the earth were written down for others.
V2 Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;
They were eyewitnesses to the events and teachings of Jesus Christ and they help others with what they learned.
V3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,
Luke being called of God, also had perfect understanding of the works of Jesus Christ, so he wrote them down as well. Theophilus means dear friend of God or dear fellow Christian. Luke also had us in mind when writing this book.
V4 That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.
We will know for sure and will not have to guess about what Luke is telling us.
V5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.
Zacharias was a descendant of Aaron which means he was a Levite. Elisabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Zacharias had to be a Levite as well as be married to a Levite to be able to serve as a priest. What this verse also gives us is a date of when this took place. I Chronicles 24:10 tells us that Abia is the eighth course of priests out of twenty four. I Chronicles 24:1-19 will give you a list of the others as well has how they were divided. Now the courses of priest were to serve one week starting each time on the Sabbath (I Chronicles 9:25 and II Chronicles 23:8). Three times a year all the courses of priests had to serve together. Those times of year were Passover, Pentecost and Feast of Tabernacles (Deuteronomy 16:16). After one of the Great Feasts they would pick up were they left off in the order. The first Jewish month is Nisan which is our April. Passover and Pentecost would happen before Zacharias was to serve his normal course. That would make it the month of Sivan or our June 13-19.
V6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
Zacharias and Elisabeth followed the laws of God and fulfilled the duties of a Levitical priest.
V7 And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.
I have no doubt that they were praying for a child as they were getting older. Zacharias also probably wanted a son to take his place so he could retire.
V8 And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course,
V9 According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.
Zacharias is on duty and fulfilling his obligations as a priest of the course of Abia. Remember that the time of year is our June 13-19 Zacharias went into the temple of the Lord and only a priest can do that so he was alone. But not for long.
V10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.
As Zacharias was burning the incense that went up to our Father, the people prayed. Maybe feeling that they would be better heard at this time.
V11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
V12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
Zacharias was minding his own business doing his job when God sent an angel to talk to him. Notice that he was troubled and afraid, scared to death was probably more like it. It makes me laugh when I hear these television preachers say that God spoke to them like it is an everyday kind of thing. To be in the presence of an angel from God or God Himself, is not something that our flesh can adjust to quickly. Jacob was scared by a dream from God (Genesis 28:10-22) and Zacharias is not doing much better with the angel from God. Both of those men were chosen by our Father to do His will and did not take it lightly when He spoke to them. Now I'm not talking about the Holy Sprit as that has a totally different affect on us. When the Holy Spirit touches our soul, it makes us feel warm and gives us comfort. Notice also that the angel stood on the right side of the altar. Which side did Christ say to fish from? The right side (John 21:5-6). Just some food for thought for people who vote.
V13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
The angel told Zacharias to relax and not to be afraid. John was given his name by God and it means Yehovah is a gracious giver.
V14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.
V15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.
Even before John is born of woman, he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will be great in the eyes of God because he is the forerunner to Christ and will turn many hearts to Jesus Christ. The reason Luke is telling us all this is so that we will know the date of the conception and birth of John as well as Christ.
V16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.
V17 And he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
John would be the one in the wilderness saying "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight." John came in the spirit of Elijah but he was not Elijah, they are not the same person. John just had the same type of spirit that Elijah did in the eyes of the Lord. The just is Jesus Christ.
V18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.
Zacharias not only lost the fear he had but now he is even doubting what the angel is saying. He is saying "My wife and I are to old for this to happen, how can this be?" He is looking for a sign now.
V19 And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.
Gabriel means mighty man of God. He is the archangel that stands in the presence of God. He tells Zacharias that he was sent by God to tell him these things. The fear is probably coming back to Zacharias now.
V20 And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.
He asked for a sign and he got one. He will not be able to speak again until these things happen just like Gabriel said they would. Be careful when you ask for a sign because you just might get one and not be happy when you do. Zacharias said his last words for nine months. He will not be able to speak again until John is born (Luke 1:57-64).
V21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple.
The people were getting restless because he was gone longer than normal.
V22 And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless.
Gabriel was true to his word. If Gabriel ever appears to you, don't challenge him.
V23 And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.
Zacharias had to serve to the 19th of June so he left on the 20th. His house was about 30 miles from Jerusalem so at his age it would take him about 2 days to get home. When he got home he probably rested some and the conception of John would happen on June 23rd or 24th.
V24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,
V25 Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein He looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.
Elisabeth conceived just like Gabriel told Zacharias she would. She hid for 5 months so that brings us to November 24th.
V26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
Gabriel is back six months after talking to Zacharias. Elisabeth has been pregnant with John for six months now which brings us to December 25th.
V27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
Espoused means to be promised in marriage, to be betrothed. Joseph was a relative of king David which means he was from the house of Judah.
V28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
Hail means to be cheerful. The angel is telling Mary that she has found a whole bunch of grace in the eyes of God. She also has been blessed as she is the mother of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
V29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
Mary is thinking to herself 'What in the world is he talking about?' It's not like people said this kind of stuff to her all the time. A little bit of fear is entering her mind.
V30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
Gabriel is telling Mary not to fear, that she received grace from God.
V31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a Son, and shalt call His name JESUS.
V32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David:
V33 And He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end.
Jesus was named by God and it means Salvation of Yehovah. This is God's way of bring salvation into this world. Jesus Christ was God in the flesh here to die on the cross for our sins. That's love. Note also the four statements of the angel covers the four different ways the Lord is presented in the Gospels.
V34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
Mary is wondering how can this happen seeing that she never has been with a man. Mary is showing her faith by not questioning that it can happen but just wondering how it will happen.
V35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy Thing Which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
Overshadow means to cast a shade upon, i.e. (by analogy) to envelope in a haze of brilliancy; figuratively, to invest with preternatural influence. We are told how the conception of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ happened.
V36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
We are told again that Elisabeth has been pregnant with John for six months now. That is important to fix the date here, which is December the 25th as the conception of Christ, not His birth.
V37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.
What a wonderful statement about our Father! What we think is impossible is not a problem for God. He is able to do anything He wants at anytime.
V38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
I think it's just wonderful that Mary had such faith and trust in what the angel told her. The same can't be said about Zacharias. You can score the faith in this story: Women 1 Men 0 So the angel leaves Mary and the conception of the Son of God takes place on December the 25th.
V39 And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda;
V40 And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.
Mary runs to see her cousin Elisabeth to share the great news. This shows more faith on Mary's part as she wants to share in the news of Elisabeth's conception, that the angel told her about in V36.
V41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:
V42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
V43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
V44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
V45 And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.
The Holy Spirit gave Elisabeth knowledge that Mary is the mother of our Lord and Saviour. Elisabeth was also being humble in verse 43 when she asked why the mother of the Lord should come and see her. The Spirit of our Lord was so strong inside Mary's womb, that John being in Elisabeth's womb for six months, jumped for joy.
V46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
V47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
V48 For He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generationsshall call me blessed.
V49 For He That is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is His name.
V50 And His mercy is on them that fear Him from generation to generation.
Some wonderful words from the mother of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
The word fear means to frighten, i.e. (passively) to be alarmed; by analogy, to be in awe of, i.e. revere. Now God really does not want us to be afraid of Him. After all, He did have His only begotten Son die on the cross for our sins, so He loves us a whole bunch. What He does want from us is our love for Him and Christ. God wants us to have a feeling of deep respect and awe for Him.
A recap of the dates of conception and birth
Conception of John
June 23rd or 24th
Birth of John
March 28th or 29th
Begetting of Christ
Nativity or birth of Christ
Now should Christians even celebrate Christmas? Yes because it is a wonderful time of year for us. It is the day on which Christ began to dwell with mankind. Our Lord and Saviour to take away our sins. Just remember that it is the day of His conception not His birth and it will be ok. Tell your children the truth and enjoy this special time of year.
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