Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Luke 2:1-14

Luke 2:1-14

Born of gentle parents, Luke practiced medicine; he is mentioned in the fourth chapter of Colossians, where he is described as the beloved physician.  Paul describes him along with Marcus, Aristarchus, and Demas as fellow laborers.  Luke was the writer of the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts.  Joseph Smith's translation attributes to Luke a high calling as a "messenger of Jesus Christ."  We read the second chapter of Luke from the writings of a gentle soul to Gentile readers:

And it came to pass in those days, that there went
out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the
world should be taxed.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius
was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the
city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of
David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was
of the house and lineage of David) (Luke 2:1-4)

The prophet Micah wrote, "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, [though] thou be little among the thousands of Judah, [yet] out of thee shall he come forth unto me [that is] to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth [have been] from of old, from everlasting" (Micah 5:2)

And John confirms both Luke and Micah with his declaration, "Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?" (John 7:42).

Leaving Galilee, Joseph went "to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child" (Luke 2:5).  As a physician, Luke undoubtedly knew how difficult it would have been for Mary to travel to Bethlehem, regardless of whether she was walking or riding a donkey.  (Doctors today counsel women not to travel in cars or on planes during the last month or two before the baby is due.)  Luke would have been concerned not only because of the physical stress of travel, but because this was Mary's first child.  He would have known the quiet fear she carried into the unknown as they made their way along the dusty road.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days
were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and
wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him
in a manger; because there was no room for them
in the inn (Luke 2:6-7).

Luke naturally say through the eyes of a physician, with which he had compassion regarding the travails of delivering a first child.  But I believe that he also considered the traditional birthright blessings and had a special understanding of the doctrine of the firstborn, especially in the Savior's case.

In the patriarchal order, the "firstborn son" is considered the heir, and as such he inherits leadership of the family when the father dies.  In this case, the Father was God.  Jesus was the firstborn of the spirit children of our Heavenly Father, and as the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh, so He received His Father's birthright.

One wonders how often Luke had delivered babies; it stands to reason that his patients were very often the poor, who had nothing but swaddling clothes in which to wrap the newborn child.  None of the other gospel writers refer to the swaddling clothes, and they provide few details about circumstances surrounding the humble birth.  But Luke, with his unique experiences as a physician, could envision not only the full birth process, but the Christ Child clothed from His nakedness and laid in a manger.  As he reflected on his own experiences at the bedside of laboring mothers, I imagine it must have hurt Luke to consider that there was no room at the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds
abiding in the field, keeping watch over their
flock by night (Luke 2:8).

Although Luke did not mention the star, he must have been aware of it.  Its radiant beams must have illuminated Luke's heart as it does ours today; as with us, he must have felt its profound message.  Of all the creations of God, one star set in motion by His Almighty hand had the sacred privilege of announcing Christ's birth.  No wonder the star over Bethlehem shone so brightly!  It still shines today for those who believe.

Imagine the wonder of the shepherds as they beheld the star and witnessed all the glorious events connected with the Savior's birth:

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them,
and the glory of the Lord shone round about
them: and they were sore afraid (Luke 2:9).

Luke must have imagined, as we do, the shepherds cowering amid their flocks, filled with a pronounced combination of fright and awe as the glory of the Lord surrounded them.  With Luke, the shepherds - and all of mankind - thrill with the message:

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for,
behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy,
which shall be to all people (Luke 2:10).

What excitement to hear good tidings of great joy to all people.  We know that Luke was not there that night; we imagine that he must have heard the tales from shepherds.  But we also know that some things we experience vicariously could not be more real.  How Luke's heart must have rejoiced as he heard the breathless shepherds recounting the amazing occurrence.

As he pondered the events that happened that night, Luke must have wondered which of all the angels of heaven had the sacred privilege of declaring:

For unto you is born this day in the city of
David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find
the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude
of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace,
good will toward men (Luke 2:11-14).

To Luke, the gentle physician, we owe much of our knowledge about that sacred night when the Savior of all mankind left the realms of heaven and entered mortality - announced by the brightest star in the galaxy, hailed by the voice of an angel, and cradled in the humble surroundings of a manger.  We can be grateful for his sensitive details, words that have become tradition in countless Christian homes.  This year, as you contemplate the wonder of the Christmas story, remember a gentle physician who reflected on his years of experience to bring us the sweetest details of the greatest story ever told.

{Vaughn J Featherstone}

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