Virtual Kollage: The Lukan account of the birth of Jesus

Posted by / Wednesday, 29 March 2017 / No comments

The Lukan account of the birth of Jesus



THE LUKAN ACCOUNT OF THE BIRTH OF JESUS
Six months after Elizabeth, the wife of Zechariah had become pregnant, an angel of the Lord, called Gabriel, visited a virgin, called Mary, who had been betrothed to a man from the line of David, called Joseph.

Angel Gabriel said to Mary, “O favoured one, the Lord is with you.” This greeting troubled Mary and she wondered what kind of greeting it might be. The angel calmed her down by saying she should not be afraid because she had found favour in the sight of the Lord. He said, Mary would conceive and bear a child to be called Jesus.

Knowing that she had not been with any man and was still a virgin, Mary asked the angel how that was going to be possible, but the angel said the Holy Spirit would come upon her and she would become pregnant and the child to be born shall be called Holy. Then the angel hinted that even her kinswoman, Elizabeth was also with a child and the pregnancy was about six months old and therefore, with God nothing is impossible. Mary said to the angel “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Then angel Gabriel left.

Getting close to the time Mary was due to have her child, a decree was passed by Caesar Augustus for a census to be carried out. Everyone was expected to go to his or her village to be enumerated. So Joseph also went to his village, Bethlehem, together with Mary who was by this time, heavily pregnant.

While in Bethlehem, Mary’s final moments to deliver came and she was successfully delivered of a baby boy. The child was wrapped in a swaddling cloth and laid in a manger because there was no room in the available hotels for them to lodge in.

That same night, there were some shepherds out in the field, looking after their flock. An angel appeared to them and the glory of God shone around them which frightened them. The angel told them not to be afraid because he had brought them good news. The good news was that, in the city of David, Bethlehem, a savior, Christ the Lord, had been born. They shall find the child wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger. Immediately, many other angels joined the angel and they sung praises to God.

After the angels had left, the shepherds decided to go to Bethlehem and see things for themselves. They hurried to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph with the baby lying in a manger. Then the shepherds told the people what had been told them on the field about the child and everybody was wondering about what the shepherds had said but Mary kept the sayings in her heart pondering over them. The shepherds returned, praising God for the things they had heard and seen.

After eight days, baby Jesus was circumcised according to the laws of the Lord which He covenanted with Abraham. He was named Jesus, which was the name that the angel mentioned before he was even conceived in his mother’s womb.

The custom in Israel was that every male child that opens the womb of a woman shall be called Holy to the Lord. As part of the custom, a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons shall be sacrificed. When the time came for this custom to be performed, because Jesus was the first male to open his mother’s womb, Jesus was sent to Jerusalem for the purification ceremony according the laws of Moses.

LESSONS TO BE LEARNED FROM THE ACCOUNT
1. One of the lessons to be learned from the story is that it does not matter the humble circumstances surrounding one’s birth, one can still achieve great success in life.

2. Another lesson is that there are no impossibilities when God is concerned. Naturally speaking, Mary could not have gotten pregnant if she had not had sex but with God, everything is possible.

3. The next lesson is that civic responsibilities should not be treated with disrespect. Taking part in a population census exercise is an important element of one’s civic responsibility.

4. God can use anybody to achieve his purpose for humanity, regardless of the person’s humble beginning.
REASONS FOR THE RITUALS OF CIRCUMCISION AND PRESENTATION IN THE TEMPLE
1. The ritual of circumcision was a requirement of the law. Every Jew is mandated to be circumcised on the eighth day after birth.
2. Another reason for the circumcision was that it was part of the covenant that God had with Abraham many years earlier that every male born in a Jewish home shall be circumcised on the eighth day.
3. The ritual of presentation of the child in the Temple was also a requirement of the tradition of the people of Israel. The custom demanded that where a woman’s first child is a male, or a male child opens her womb, the child becomes a Holy child of God and must be presented to God in the Temple.
4. The sacrifice of two turtle doves or two pigeons was to lessen the burden of the ritual for poor parents so that they can fulfill the requirement, which in reality is to be the usual goat or sheep. This indicates that Jesus’ parents could not afford the sheep of goat.

WAYS IN WHICH LUKE’S ACCOUNT DIFFERS FROM MATTHEW’S ACCOUNT
1. One of the ways in which Luke’s account differs from that of Matthew is that there was no mention of an angel visiting Mary in Matthew; it was Joseph who encountered the angel in a dream. Also the name of the angel was not mentioned.

2. Another way in which the two accounts differ is that Luke did not record that Joseph tried to secretly divorce Mary when he discovered that she was pregnant, only Matthew recorded this.

3. Another difference between the two accounts was that Matthew did not say anything about Elizabeth as was done in the book of Luke.

SAMPLE QUESTIONS
1. a. Describe the Lukan account of the annunciation of Jesus.
b. In what two ways is this account different from the Matthew account?

2. a. Highlight the main features in the account of the birth, the circumcision and the presentation of Jesus in the Temple.
     b. Give two reasons for the two rituals of circumcision and the Temple presentation.

3. a. Outline the Lukan account of the birth of Jesus.
    b. What two lessons can be learned from the circumstances of Jesus’ birth?

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