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Luke 1:5-38
I am sure that there many other children born around the same time as Prince Charles - but only one will become King of England.

Luke sets up the birth predictions of John and Jesus so that we see the connections, see the parallels but notice the ordered priority. In each, the same patterns emerge, but there are crucial differences. In each, the scene is set. In each, the characters are introduced. In each, there is a meeting with Gabriel. In each, there is a birth prediction, met with questions. In each, there is an aftermath. In each, there is a level of fulfilment (although we don't know for certain about Mary's pregnancy until Luke 2).

But, there are differences... In one the barrier is barrenness, the other virginity. In one, there is answered prayer, the other 'the LORD is with you'. In one, there is a prophet to come, the other, it is God himself.

And here is the key... turning on Malachi 4:5-6, John is the preparing prophet-figure, and the One following hot on his heels is God himself. You cannot miss the statement, even if you don't listen to the words of Gabriel: the child of Mary will be God's Son, the King of the Universe. And so sin will be dealt with!

The historical details are there. The fulfilment is there. The truth is there. The priority is there. Are you there with this stuff?

Prayer:

Father, in your world, accidents don't happen and the impossible can be done by you. Jesus is born, and my sins are dealt with by you, through faith, in him. Pleas help me to know and live this truth. Amen.
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Luke 1:5-38
Often, when something unlikely happens in life, we say, 'It was an accident', or, 'It just happened'. The pregnancy of an old woman and the pregnancy of a young teenage girl would fall into that category. But Luke wants us to know that the pregnancies of Elizabeth and Mary were not accidents or fortunate happenstance - they are fulfilment, the divinely-planned and created events of God himself.

We need to notice that Luke's structure in the first two chapters of his work is quite deliberate - the intertwining of the start of life stories of two cousins.

The pregnancy of Elizabeth comes first. We should immediately be on the alert when we are told that Zechariah and Elizabeth are 'righteous in God's sight... but they had no children' (vs.6-7). That sounds familiar from the word of God - remember Samuel? Remember countless other barren women?

Zechariah is confronted by an angel - Gabriel - as he does his allotted duty in the temple. It is very clear that this elderly couple have been praying in dependence upon God for a child - and he has answered the cry of his people. They will have a son. His name will be John. He will be a prophetic figure, to 'go before Him... to make ready for the LORD a prepared people' (vs.17).

Zechariah is astounded and doubtful. His doubt is confronted. The people witness it all. And Elizabeth becomes pregnant...

This is no accident! This no happenstance! This is not just an unusual event! This is the work of God, doing as he promised so long ago! Just check the historically verifiable facts!

Prayer:

Father, you the God of all things, and you bring and supervise and control all things. Today, may my life be lived before you so that others meet you, as you are: the Father of your people, providing all that they need. Amen.
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Luke 1:5-38
From the very beginning, Luke is true to his stated aim and method - his writing is orderly, sequential, and verifiable.

As you read this section, note down the verifiable elements, especially if you are a man like Theophilus, with the might of the Roman public service at your finger-tips!

In verse 5, there is a time reference with the title of the king of a locality. In verse 5, there is a stated name of a priest (his lineage), the name of his wife, and their circumstances in life. In verses 8-9, there is a noted religious custom, which would be possible to check and verify. In verse 10, there is a stated religious custom timeframe, and a crowd of witnesses noted (a situation backed up by verses 21-22). In verse 24, there is a physical and pregnancy time made clear. In verses 26-27, the second scene opens up, with time, geography, name, relational and lineage references which could all be checked.

Whatever else you want to say about Luke, he erects the historical scaffolding for placing and investigating the 'events that have been fulfilled among us' (vs.1).

This scaffolding is important in a sceptical world because the scaffolding of historically verifiable truths works hand-in-hand with the interpretation of these events as 'fulfilment'. These two are inseparable, and tomorrow we will turn to the fulfilment...

Pray:

Father, thank you that you have brought me to this day, with rest behind me and activity before me. In both activity and rest, please place me within your plans and purposes so that people meet you, through my proclamation and practice of Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Amen.
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Psalm 51
I try to read a psalm a day. It is a good discipline, exposes me to poetry, and expresses the revelation of God in a 'different way'. It also means that I regularly meet my favourite psalms, like Psalm 51.

Psalm 51 is iconic (and that is not to downplay the rest of the Bible as God's word). Written in the aftermath of sin exposed, and sin repented of (read 2 Samuel 10-11), it captures so much: the nature of sin, the damage of sin, the forgiveness of sin, the joy of sin forgiven, the change of sin forgiven, and more!

I remember being exposed to Psalm 51 as a 14/15 year old. I was sitting at a cafe at Coogee Beach with Rod Chiswell, who was our catechist at St John's Maroubra, as he finished at Moore College. I was struggling with particular sin. Rod sat and read Psalm 51 with me, talked to me as an older Christian brother, and prayed with me. It was a significant moment.

Of all the things that stand out, then, for me from this poem, these three are crucial:

(i) Sin is sin because it is against God (vs.4) and that means only God can forgive sin (vs.4, 6-9).

(ii) Sin is part of my make-up (vs.5) and I experience its damage every day, in every part of my life (vs.3).

(iii) And the goodness of sin forgiven is transformative (vs.10-17).

In this world, where we are broken, where the world is broken - all by sin - what better poem to read regularly as we live as people forgiven by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus alone?

Prayer:

Pray Psalm 51...
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Psalm 50
One of the current observations that has emerged from the American election is that this period of American politics has hardened America into two set camps - red and blue. You could make the argument about this in many nations, and many communities.

However, regardless of how you define culture and nations and ethnicities and language groups, there is a basic universal division, and Psalm 50 discusses it...

The division is between those who are right with God, and those who reject him.

Those with God are those who hear his word, who apply his word, who obey his word, who rest in dependence upon him.

Those against God are those who ignore his word, who live as their own god, who rest in their own achievements and human nature.

Which are you?

It is not an insignificant question, because there will be a day when we must give account to God for the life he has given us.

Prayer:

Father, please open my ears to your word, please rest my soul in your strength, please move my heart to your love, please move my mind to your truth, please open my lips to your praises, and please place my feet in the path of Jesus. Amen.
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