The Xmas Countdown
December is a cold, dark month. The light of Jesus transforms the darkness in
more ways than one. I like to countdown the days to Xmas so as to avoid the daze
of Xmas. The best way to do this is read and re-read the gospel accounts of the
birth of Jesus.
Here they are from the Phillips translation.
Book 3 - THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUKE
(Part 1 of 3, chapters 1-8)
WITH THE WORDS OF JESUS IN RED
1:1-4- Dear Theophilus Many people have already written an account of the events which have happened among us, basing their work on the evidence of those whom we know were eye-witnesses as well as teachers of the message. I have therefore decided, since I have traced the course of these happenings carefully from the beginning, to set them down for you myself in their proper order, so that you may have reliable information about the matters in which you have already had instruction.
A vision comes to an old priest of God
1:5-17- The story begins in the days when Herod was king of Judea with a priest called Zacharias, whose wife Elisabeth was, like him, a descendant of Aaron. They were both truly religious people, blamelessly observing all God's commandments and requirements. They were childless through Elisabeth's infertility, and both of them were getting on in years. One day, while Zacharias was performing his priestly functions (it was the turn of his division to be on duty, it fell to him to go into the sanctuary and burn the incense. The crowded congregation outside was praying at the actual time of the incense-burning, when an angel of the Lord appeared on the right side of the incense-altar. When Zacharias saw him, he was terribly agitated and a sense of awe swept over him. But the angel spoke to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias; your prayers have been heard. Elisabeth your wife will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. This will be joy and delight to you and many more will be glad because he is born. He will be one of God's great men; he will touch neither wine nor strong drink and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment of his birth. He will turn many of Israel's children to the Lord their God. He will go out before God in the spirit and power of Elijah - to reconcile fathers and children, and bring back the disobedient to the wisdom of good men - and he will make a people fully ready for their Lord."
1:18 - But Zacharias replied to the angel, "How can I know that this is true? I am an old man myself and my wife is getting on in years ..." 1:19-20 - "I am Gabriel," the angel answered. "I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and tell you this good news. Because you do not believe what I have said, you shall live in silence, and you shall be unable to speak a word until the day that it happens. But be sure that everything that I have told you will come true at the proper time."
1:21-24 - Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zacharias, wondering why he stayed so long in the sanctuary. But when he came out and was unable to speak a word to them - for although he kept making signs, not a sound came from his lips - they realised that he had seen a vision in the Temple. Later, when his days of duty were over, he went back home, and soon afterwards his wife Elisabeth became pregnant and kept herself secluded for five months.
1:25 - "How good the Lord is to me," she would say, "now that he has taken away the shame that I have suffered."
A vision comes to a young woman in Nazareth
1:26-28- Then, six months after Zacharias' vision, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a Galilean town, Nazareth by name, to a young woman who was engaged to a man called Joseph. The girl's name was Mary. The angel entered her room and said, "Greetings to you, Mary. O favoured one! - the Lord be with you!"
1:29-33 - Mary was deeply perturbed at these words and wondered what such a greeting could possibly mean. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; God loves you dearly. You are going to be the mother of a son, and you will call him Jesus. He will be great and will be known as the Son of the most high. The Lord God will give him the throne of his forefather, David, and he will be king over the people of Jacob for ever. His reign shall never end."
1:34 - Then Mary spoke to the angel, "How can this be," she said, "I am not married!"
1:35-37 - But the angel made this reply to her - "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the most high will overshadow you. Your child will therefore be called holy - the Son of God. Your cousin Elisabeth has also conceived a son, old as she is. Indeed, this is the sixth month for her, a woman who was called barren. For no promise of God can fail to be fulfilled."
1:38 - "I belong to the Lord, body and soul," replied Mary, "let it happen as you say." And at this the angel left her.
1:39-45 - With little delay Mary got ready and hurried off to the hillside town in Judea where Zacharias and Elisabeth lived. She went into their house and greeted her cousin. When Elisabeth heard her greeting, the unborn child stirred inside her and she herself was filled with the Holy Spirit, and cried out, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is your child! What an honour it is to have the mother of my Lord come to see me! Why, as soon as your greeting reached my ears, the child within me jumped for joy! Oh, how happy is the woman who believes in God, for he does make his promises to her come true."
1:46-55 - Then Mary said, "My heart is overflowing with praise of my Lord, my soul is full of joy in God my Saviour. For he has deigned to notice me, his humble servant and, after this, all the people who ever shall be will call me the happiest of women! The one who can do all things has done great things for me - oh, holy is his Name! Truly, his mercy rests on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, he has swept away the high and mighty. He has set kings down from their thrones and lifted up the humble. He has satisfied the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away with empty hands. Yes, he has helped Israel, his child: he has remembered the mercy that he promised to our forefathers, to Abraham and his sons for evermore!"
The old woman's son, John, is born
1:56 - So Mary stayed with Elisabeth about three months, and then went back
to her own home.
1:59-60 - When the eighth day came, they were going to circumcise the child and call him Zacharias, after his father, but his mother said, "Oh, no! He must be called John."
1:61-66 - "But none of your relations is called John," they replied. And they made signs to his father to see what name he wanted the child to have. He beckoned for a writing-tablet and wrote the words, "His name is John", which greatly surprised everybody. Then his power of speech suddenly came back, and his first words were to thank God. The neighbors were awe-struck at this, and all these incidents were reported in the hill-country of Jude People turned the whole matter over in their hearts, and said, "What is this child's future going to be?" For the Lord's blessing was plainly upon him.
1:67-75 - Then Zacharias, his father, filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking like a prophet, said, "Blessings on the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has turned his face towards his people and has set them free! And he has raised up for us a standard of salvation in his servant David's house! Long, long ago, through the words of his holy prophets, he promised to do this for us, so that we should be safe from our enemies and secure from all who hate us. So does he continue the mercy he showed to our forefathers. So does he remember the holy agreement he made with them and the oath which he swore to our father Abraham, to make us this gift: that we should be saved from the hands of our enemies, and in his presence should serve him unafraid in holiness and righteousness all our lives.
1:76-79 - "And you, little child, will be called the prophet of the most high, for you will go before the Lord to prepare the way for his coming. It will be for you to give his people knowledge of their salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. Because the heart of our God is full of mercy towards us, the first light of Heaven shall come to visit us - to shine on those who lie in darkness and under the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the path of peace.
1:80 - The little child grew up and became strong in spirit. He lived in lonely places until the day came for him to show himself to Israel.
The census brings Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem
2:1-7- At that time a proclamation was made by Caesar Augustus that all the inhabited world should be registered. This was the first census, undertaken while Cyrenius was governor of Syria and everybody went to the town of his birth to be registered. Joseph went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to David's town, Bethlehem, in Judea, because he was a direct descendant of David, to be registered with his future wife, Mary, now in the later stages of her pregnancy. So it happened that it was while they were there in Bethlehem that she came to the end of her time. She gave birth to her first child, a son. And as there was no place for them inside the inn, she wrapped him up and laid him in a manger.
A vision comes to shepherds on the hillside
2:8-12 - There were some shepherds living in the same part of the country,
keeping guard throughout the night over their flocks in the open fields.
Suddenly an angel of the Lord stood by their side, the splendor of the Lord
blazed around them, and they were terror-stricken. But the angel said to them,
"Do not be afraid! Listen, I bring you glorious news of great joy which is
for all the people. This very day, in David's town, a Savior has been born for
you. He is Christ, the Lord. Let this prove it to you: you will find a baby,
wrapped up and lying in a manger."
Mary and Joseph bring their new-born son to the Temple
2:21 - At the end of the eight days, the time came for circumcising the child
and he was called Jesus, the name given to him by the angel before his
2:39-40 - When they had completed all the requirements of the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew up and became strong and full of wisdom. And God's blessing was upon him.
Twelve years later: the boy Jesus goes with his parents to Jerusalem
2:41-48 - Every year at the Passover festival Jesus' parents used to go to
Jerusalem. When he was twelve years old they went up to the city as usual for
the festival. When it was over they started back home, but the boy Jesus stayed
behind in Jerusalem, without his parents' knowledge. They went a day's journey
assuming that he was somewhere in their company, and then they began to look for
him among their relations and acquaintances. They failed to find him, however,
and turned back to the city, looking for him as they went. Three days later,
they found him - in the Temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them
and asking them questions. All those who heard him were astonished at his powers
of comprehension and at the answers that he gave. When Joseph and Mary saw him,
they could hardly believe their eyes, and his mother said to him, "Why have
you treated us like this, my son? Here have your father and I been very worried,
looking for you everywhere!"
21:50-52 - But they did not understand his reply. Then he went home with them to Nazareth and was obedient to them. And his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And as Jesus continued to grow in body and mind, he grew also in the love of God and of those who knew him.
(Part 1 of 3, chapters 1-9)
1:1-11 - This is the record of the ancestry of Jesus Christ who was the descendant of both David and Abraham:Abraham was the father of Isaac, who was the father of Jacob, who was the father of Judah and his brothers, who was the father of Perez and Zerah (whose mother was Tamar). Perez was the father of Hezron, who was the father of Ram, who was the father of Amminadab, who was the father of Nahshon, who was the father of Salmon, who was the father of Boaz (whose mother was Rahab). Boaz was the father of Obed (whose mother was Ruth), and Obed was the father of Jesse, who was the father of King David, who was the father of Solomon (whose mother was Uriah's wife). Solomon was the father of Rehoboam, who was the father of Abijah, who was the father of Asa, who was the father of Jehoshaphat, who was the father of Joram, who was the father of Uzziah, who was the father of Jotham, who was the father of Ahaz, who was the father of Hezekiah, who was the father of Manasseh, who was the father of Amon, who was the father of Josiah, who was the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.
1:12-16 - After the Babylonian exile Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, who was the fatherof Zerubbabel, who was the father of Abiud, who was the father of Eliakim, who was the father of Azor, who was the father of Sadoc, who was the father of Achim, who was the father of Eliud, who was the father of Eleazar, who was the father of Matthan, who was the father of Jacob, who was the father of Joseph, who was the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ.
1:17 - The genealogy of Jesus Christ may thus be traced for fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the deportation to Babylon, and fourteen from the deportation to Christ himself.
His birth in human history
1:18-21- The birth of Jesus Christ happened like this. When Mary was engaged to Joseph, just before their marriage, she was discovered to be pregnant - by the Holy Spirit. Whereupon Joseph, her future husband, who was a good man and did not want to see her disgraced, planned to break off the engagement quietly. But while he was turning the matter over in his mind an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife! What she has conceived is conceived through the Holy Spirit, and she will give birth to a son, whom you will call Jesus ('the Saviour') for it is he who will save his people from their sins."
1:22-23 - All this happened to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet -'Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel'. ("Immanuel" means "God with us.")
1:24-25 - When Joseph woke up he did what the angel had told him. He married Mary, but had no intercourse with her until she had given birth to a son. Then he gave him the name Jesus.
Herod, suspicious of the new-born king, takes vindictive precautions
2:1-2- Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in Judea, in the days when Herod was king of the province. Not long after his birth there arrived from the east a party of astrologers making for Jerusalem and enquiring as they went, "Where is the child born to be king of the Jews? For we saw his star in the east and we have come here to pay homage to him."
2:3-6 - When King Herod heard about this he was deeply perturbed, as indeed were all the other people living in Jerusalem. So he summoned all the Jewish scribes and chief priests together and asked where "Christ" should be born. Their reply was: "In Bethlehem, in Judea, for this is what the prophet (Micah) wrote about the matter - 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel'."
2:7-8 - Then Herod invited the wise men to meet him privately and found out from them the exact time when the star appeared. Then he sent them off to Bethlehem saying, "When you get there, search for this little child with the utmost care. And when you have found him come back and tell me - so that I may go and worship him too."
2:9-10 - The wise men listened to the king and then went on their way to Bethlehem. And now the star, which they had seen in the east, went in front of them as they traveled until at last it shone immediately above the place where the little child lay. The sight of the star filled them with indescribable joy.
2:11-12 - So they went into the house and saw the little child with his mother Mary. And they fell on their knees and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts - gold, incense and myrrh. Then, since they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by a different route.
2:13 - But after they had gone, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up now, take the little child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you. For Herod means to seek out the child and kill him."
2:14-15 - So Joseph got up, and taking the child and his mother with him in the middle of the night, set off for Egypt, where he remained until Herod's death. This again is a fulfillment of the Lord's word spoken through the prophet - 'Out of Egypt I called my son'.
2:16 - When Herod saw that he had been fooled by the wise men he was furiously angry. He issued orders, and killed all the male children of two years and under in Bethlehem and the surrounding district - basing his calculation on his careful questioning of the wise men.
2:17-18 - Then Jeremiah's prophecy was fulfilled: 'A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they were no more'.
Jesus is brought to Nazareth
2:19-20 - But after Herod's deathan angel of the Lord again appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Now get up and take the infant and his mother with you and go into the land of Israel. For those who sought the child's life are dead."
2:21-23 - So Joseph got up and took the little child and his mother with him and journeyed towards the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was now reigning as king of Judea in the place of his father Herod, he was afraid to enter the country. Then he received warning in a dream to turn aside into the district of Galilee and came to live in a small town called Nazareth - thus fulfilling the old prophecy, that he should be called a Nazarene