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Reading the Bible: December 2015

Luke reveals a loving Jesus

By the Rev. Canon Don Beatty

The Rev. Canon Don BeattyThe first Sunday in Advent this year is on Nov. 29. Advent means “the coming.” It is the churches’ preparation for the coming of the Christ-child.

Advent also marks the beginning of the new church year. This year, we will be in Year C. This means that most of the Gospel readings will be from Luke, which provides a fascinating account of the life of Jesus.

Luke is the only Gentile writer in the New Testament. He was probably a medical doctor, converted by Paul. He accompanied Paul on most of Paul’s missionary journeys. In addition to his Gospel, Luke wrote the Acts of the Apostles, the fifth book in our Christian Bible.

Luke met most of the leaders of the early church as he travelled with Paul. He may have even talked to Mary, the mother of Jesus. His stories reflect a very compassionate and loving Jesus, a Jesus who is concerned for the underdog, the poor, outcasts, and women and children. It is only in Luke that we find the parables of the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan.

It is also in Luke that we find the classic birth story of Jesus. This is the beautiful account of angels and shepherds and the stable in Bethlehem. The emperor in far-off Rome decides to have a census taken. A decree goes out, causing Mary and Joseph to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem. (As they are of the House of David, Mary and Joseph have to return to their ancestral hometown. Bethlehem is the birthplace of David, born a thousand years before Jesus. David was Israel’s greatest king.)

It is in Bethlehem that the Saviour of the world is born, in a dark, damp cave fit only for animals. For Luke, Jesus is the fulfillment of Jewish history. His arrival marks the inauguration of the Kingdom of God. Jesus is the king, born to lead his people into a new relationship with their God. His enthronement is to be the cross on Calvary Hill. Luke emphasizes the kingship of Jesus and the establishment of his kingdom here on earth.

For Luke, Jesus is a revolutionary who comes to replace temple worship and to renew the old Jewish order with a new order. He represents the new Israel. Thus the cross, his throne, is central for the history of God’s people, which includes all people on earth. His Gospel message is universal, and Christians are called to proclaim it to all people.

I would encourage you to read Luke’s Gospel during this Advent season. It reveals a very loving and compassionate Jesus, who reaches out to us across the centuries with the love of God for each person.

Luke probably wrote his Gospel shortly after the destruction of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. The temple was one of the great wonders of the ancient world, the most holy place for every Jewish person. Luke did not want the believers in Jesus Christ to interpret this destruction as a sign of the end of the world. God had not deserted his people. Their hope was in the future, with Christ’s triumphant return. The Christian community was encouraged to continue to live faithfully, endure suffering, and wait patiently for God’s promise of a new beginning to be fulfilled here on earth.

May Advent be a time of joyful hope, anticipation and expectation, as we prepare for the birth of the Christ-child in our hearts, and for His coming again in great glory to reign forever. Have a blessed and holy Advent and may Christmas be filled with love, joy and peace for all.

The Rev. Canon Don Beatty is an honorary assistant at St. Luke, Dixie South, Mississauga.