Read This: Luke 1:39-56
Day 9 brought Mary into the story. Imagine being fourteen, meeting an angel, and learning you’re having a baby — though you’ve never been with a man. Mary’s question (How?) was genuine, and the angel’s answer (God will be the father) was accepted (vs. 38).
Mary didn’t ask for a sign to verify this shocking news, but she received one anyway. The angel revealed that Elizabeth, Mary’s elderly and infertile relative, was also miraculously pregnant — and due in three months.
The first thing Mary did was visit Elizabeth. Imagine how much they would have to discuss! When Mary walked in the door, Elizabeth’s child (John the Baptist) leapt for joy in her womb and the Holy Spirit prophesied about Mary through her. Two comments stand out:
• Blessed among women are you — At that time, a woman’s status and significance was based on her children. Since Jesus would be the greatest child ever born, Mary was the most blessed of all women.
• The mother of my Lord — The title my Lord declares Jesus’ deity. It was the title used for God.
These are bold statements addressed to a young girl, yet Mary was no ordinary girl. Though only fourteen, she knew the Old Testament from beginning to end. Her reply to Elizabeth — a song of praise to God (vs. 46-55) — is packed with Scripture. She quotes from fifteen Old Testament passages, including Hannah’s song of praise, psalms of God’s mercy, references to His work among the nations, and prophecies of promise to His people.
Jesus’ mom knew the Scriptures. She understood Who this Child was, and was prepared — even at fourteen — to rear up the Son of God. She knew the Word.
Read This: Luke 1:26-35
Mary was a young teen. (Think freshman.) She lived in a small town located near nowhere, and she was a virgin. Like most girls her age, Mary was already engaged to be married. Her future husband was the village carpenter, and the rest of her life was entirely predictable.
Until Gabriel, the archangel, showed up at her house. After four hundred years of no angels, miracles, or messages from God, Gabriel appeared to tell Mary she was going to have a Baby. Here’s what he said:
• You are favored — God is with you!
• You will conceive and bear a son
• You will name Him Jesus (which means God saves)
• He will be the Son of the Most High God
• He will reign forever on the throne of King David
Mary, in all sincerity, asked, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”
What comes next is the pivot point of the Bible (see Luke 1:35). Gabriel announces that the child will be like no other — He will not have a human father! His Father will be the Most High God, the Sovereign Ruler of All.
How did Mary respond to her first encounter with Jesus Christ? “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
What an example.
Action: Ask for the kind of heart that will respond to Jesus like Mary did.
Read This: Luke 1:5-25
Malachi reads like a dead end to the Old Testament. The Jews are back in Jerusalem but their faith has dried up. Their prophet is dishing out stern rebukes, and when he stops talking . . . the line goes dead. For four hundred years. No angels, no prophets, no messengers, no miracles, no words from God, no nothing. End of story.
Except for one thing. Set amid the chastening, Malachi prophecies a herald who will introduce the Messiah. A spark of hope as the fire goes out.
Luke snatches this spark from the ashes of the Old Testament and fans it into the inferno of the New. After four hundred years of no angels, prophets, messengers, miracles, or words from God, we get them all in one story. An angelic messenger brings a word from God to Zechariah, telling him his old and barren wife will miraculously bear a son who will be the greatest prophet that every lived because he will prepare the way for . . . the Messiah.
Luke kicks off where the Old Testament left off (compare Malachi 4:6 with Luke 1:17). The spark of hope bursts into flame with high drama and profound significance. The perfect setup for the grandest entrance of all time.
Action: Note the intricate details behind God’s elaborate plan. Remind yourself of this when you’re wondering about His involvement in your affairs.
Read This: Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38
When you claim to be somebody you’d better have proof. Especially when it’s someone awaited for thousands of years. Today’s readings feature two lists of names — family trees — both proving Jesus to be who He claims to be.
Matthew was a Jew writing to Jews, so his list begins with Abraham (father of the Jews) and runs through King David’s royal line. Matthew ends with Joseph, the husband of Mary, because legal lines of royal succession pass through fathers. Joseph was the legal father of Jesus. But not the biological father . . .
That’s where Luke’s genealogy kicks in. Luke was a Gentile writing to Gentiles. He traces Jesus’ physical lineage all the way back to Adam. Why does that matter? Because you can’t redeem a race you’re not part of. Jesus had to be born as a human (a physical son of Mary) to bring salvation to the human race.
So Matthew details Jesus’ legal right to the throne through Joseph, and Luke bypasses Joseph (“supposedly the father of”) to trace Mary’s lineage to Adam through David’s son Nathan. This subtle distinction matters because Solomon’s physical line of kings ended with Jehoiachin (Jeremiah 22:30). Jesus was the legal heir of Solomon’s throne, but a physical descendant of David through Nathan. He has the legal right to reign through Joseph and the physical right through Mary. How’s that for miraculous?
Here are two more interesting features of these lists. Matthew, a tax collector, had relational ties to people of all nations. So he begins with Abraham, in whom all nations will be blessed, and ends with the Great Commission, through which all nations will be reached. Matthew also highlights five women, each unique in how they’re related. Can you find them, and do you know why each is unique?
Action: Acknowledge aloud to God that Jesus is not a random Jew — He is the exact and only person qualified to serve as King and Redeemer. Say it to Him as best you can in your own words.
Read This: John 1:14-18
We can’t see God. Why? He’s spirit and we can’t see spirit. Plus, God is holy and we are impure. Toss a tissue into a fire and it burns in a flash. Just as fire consumes all that’s flammable, holiness consumes all that’s impure. That’s why we can’t enter His presence.
But He can enter ours.
God entered Creation as a man — Jesus. That’s what “we have seen His glory” means. Glory is the honor and good opinion that comes from seeing how wonderful someone is. Jesus “glorifies” God by revealing what He’s like. For example:
He’s full of grace. Grace is when someone thinks of you with favor. He is delighted to see you, extends kindness to you, and does good on your behalf. He does these things because he loves you.
He’s full of truth. Truth is what’s real, not just how things appear. Jesus Christ reveals what is true about God, life, the world, and you. When He says something, you can trust it.
John the Baptist testified that Jesus is higher than him and existed before him (even though John was older). Jesus existed before him because He’s eternal. John also points out that, although no one can see God, Jesus reveals Him to us. Look at Jesus and you see God. That’s why we’re following Him this year!
Action: It says Jesus is full of grace (vs. 17). Decide to view God as good, friendly, and delighted in you, not as a judge or angry parent. Practice this whenever you think of God or Jesus Christ.
Read This: John 1:6-13
God didn’t slip Jesus into the world on the sly. He sent a herald — someone who shouts the news and proclaims that big things are coming. God even predicted the herald’s arrival centuries earlier (Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1).
That herald was John the Baptist.
John the Baptist wasn’t the Savior (called the Light in this passage). John was the herald announcing Him. So who is the Light? The One who reveals God to all people. The One who created the world and entered it. Jesus Christ. (See Day 4.)
However, even though Jesus made the world — giving Him rightful ownership — the world didn’t acknowledge Him. Neither did the Jews (God’s chosen people). That’s because human history begins with rebellion (a fight for who’s boss), and the consequence of rebellion is blindness. We can’t recognize reality unless God opens our eyes to it (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).
But anyone who does recognize that Jesus is God and believes in Him (more on this later), God adopts that person as His own child. You can’t become God’s child by birth (e.g., by being Jewish), or by desire, or by determination. Only by believing that Jesus is God. That’s called seeing the Light.
Action: If you’re wrestling to see Jesus as God, pray 2 Corinthians 4:4 for yourself. Ask God to muscle Satan aside and open your blinded eyes. And if you do believe Jesus is God, pray that same verse for a “blinded” friend.
Read This: John 1:1-5
John refers to Jesus as the Word. Why? Because he was writing to Greeks and Jews. Greeks used “the Word” to describe the source of reason and order in the universe. Jews used it to refer to divine power and revelation. John wanted his readers to know the Word is more than a force or revelation. He is a person. God created the universe and revealed Himself to us through a person. Jesus Christ. [John 1:1-2; Colossians 1:15-17; Hebrews 1:1-5]
In Jesus we see what God is like because Jesus is God. He is the physical expression of God. [John 1:1-2]
This is also why John explains that Jesus had life. Not just physical life, but self-existent life. Only God is self-existent. He has no beginning or end. He is not dependent for survival on anything (like oxygen, food, or water). He is life. He is the source of life. Jesus was not created with the universe — He existed before the universe. In fact, He created the universe.
One of the metaphors Scripture uses to describe the broken relationship between man and God is darkness. When Adam rebelled against God the creation was plunged into darkness. Separation from God is darkness.
But God didn’t abandon His creation. He sent Jesus Christ — the Creator — into His own creation to reconcile their broken relationship. That’s why it says Jesus is the light. He reveals God. Darkness can’t overpower light. Picture walking into a dark room and switching on the light. In a flash the darkness is gone. The Light. The Life. The Word. By knowing Jesus we know God.
Action: Speak directly to Jesus again. Tell Him all the things today’s passage says about Him. Then tell Him how you personally will respond to His Light.