No sooner does Christmas arrive, it very quickly goes, and is soon forgotten until it comes around again after another year. Many will fall for the trap of observing Christmas, but never knowing Jesus, the ‘reason for the season’. The gospel writer, Luke, does not want us to do that. After he wrote of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus in Luke 2:1-20, he added further information about the events that happened soon after in Luke 2:21-52 – particularly the events all took place in the temple where Jesus was presented, received and began to grow. And because Christmas happens at the end of one year and the start of another, these events remind us that there is an ongoing need for God’s people to be ‘growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour’ (2 Peter 3:18) with each successive change of the calendar.
The Christmas story is an old story. Over 2,000 years old. And given that each year we hear about it and sing about it, the danger we face is that ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ and that we lose the impact of the story. Maybe one way of recovering that impact is to consider the response of the people who were there at the time. These people would include those mentioned in Luke 2:18-20, those who heard the testimony of the shepherds (verse 18), Mary herself (verse 19) and the shepherds themselves (verse 20). Luke gives attention to each of these three group and by noting well their responses we might be able to sort through and answer the question, ‘What is your reponse to the news of the birth of Jesus?”
When the two travelers on the road to Emmaus met with Jesus, as recorded in Luke 24:13-35, they were downcast and disconsolate. They were men without hope. Jesus, whom they had known and had put their hope in, was dead. While they had heard rumours of Him being alive, this all must have sounded so fanciful. Strange. But when a stranger met them on the road and opened the Scriptures to them, all that changed! Jesus fixed their fallen-apart world and hope was renewed again!
The well-known parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32 is really about two sons. It is a parable about the love of God who welcomes sinners home but also a parable about repentance and those who think they need no repentance.
In Luke 15:1-10 we read how the Pharisees thought people were accepted by God and how they therefore found fault with the company Jesus kept. Jesus tells of the true way to be accepted by God and receives sinners. God values the lost, shows his love in the effort to find them and rejoices when they are found.
God spreads a banquet for all peoples yet the self-righteous are unwilling to enter the kingdom. They give weak excuses to justify their unbelief and despised the sinners who came readily. Sinners who know they need a saviour enter the kingdom instead of those who rejected the invitation. Jesus tells a parable in Luke 14:15-24 that shows our need – are we willing to accept the invitation and welcome others into God’s kingdom?
The parable of the barren fig tree in Luke 13:6-9 belongs to Jesus’ words at the end of Luke 12 and his response to the people who told him of the death of certain Galileans killed by Pilate’s soldiers, and continues theme of our urgent need to make our peace with God. The people of his time could interpret the signs of changing weather, but not ‘the present time’ in which showed He was their Messiah and King. Despite this, and using the news of the day, Jesus persisted in calling people everywhere and immediately to repentance.
Jesus tells a parable in Luke 19 and perhaps we didn’t notice the context. He tells the story to highlight his mission to “seek and save the lost”. It connects with Zacchaeus’ conversion, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and how the people didn’t understand his mission or have him as king. We read of a present saviour and a coming judge. Will we serve him as king?
In Luke 12, Jesus is teaching about life and death only to have someone interrupt with a self-centred request! Life is more than possessions, food or clothing. Do we trust God to meet our needs? God gives abundantly but are we rich toward him? “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”