When Elizabeth hears the greeting of Mary, John the Baptist leaps with joy in her womb and Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth celebrates Mary’s faith and the Savior she bears. Mary then sings a beautiful song of praise, much like Hannah’s prayer of praise she said over 1,000 years ago when the Lord gave her Samuel. Then after about three months with Elizabeth, Mary returns home to Nazareth in Galilee.
When John the Baptist is born, his dad Zacharias writes down that his name will be John and immediately he can speak again. Zacharias says, “‘And you child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, to give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins. Through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.’ So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel.”
Jesus is born approximately six months after the birth of John the Baptist. However, when Joseph, who is betrothed to Mary, finds out that Mary is pregnant, he wants to put her away quietly because according to the Law of Moses, Mary could have been stoned to death for being an “adulteress” (Leviticus 20:10). But Joseph, being a just man, desires to protect Mary even during her apparent unfaithfulness. So the Lord sends an angel to Joseph in a dream and explains to him that Mary’s Son is from God. The angel says they shall call Him Jesus, “For He will save His people from their sins.”
We see God is at work behind the scenes accomplishing His plans as a decree goes out from Caesar Augustus calling for the world to be registered, forcing Joseph and Mary to travel to Joseph’s hometown of Bethlehem where Jesus is born as prophesied by Micah (Micah 5:2). “So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
After His birth, an angel of the Lord appears to shepherds living out in the fields and tells them of the birth of Jesus – “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” In haste the shepherds come and find Mary and Joseph and the Child lying in the manger. Then they make widely known the birth of Christ, and they return praising the Lord for all they have seen and heard.
In accordance with the Law of Moses (Leviticus 12), Jesus is circumcised on the eighth day – “And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.” And after the days of Mary’s purification, Jesus is brought to Jerusalem to be presented before the Lord.
“And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: ‘Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.’”
Simeon says to Mary, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Simeon knows that Jesus was born to save the world. However, the gift of salvation will come at a high cost. Mary will have to watch her own innocent, perfect Son be crucified.
Anna, a widowed prophetess at the temple, gives thanks to the Lord and speaks of Jesus “to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem”. Then after Mary and Joseph perform all things according to the law of the Lord, they return to Nazareth. “And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.”
Tomorrow the wise men visit Jesus and John the Baptist begins his ministry. Keep reading. (Luke 1:39-80, Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 2:1-40)