This is chapter is a beautiful peace of harmonious composition. It turns out that Luke is a master writer and a brilliant artist: he is painting a picture for us, a tapestry, and his techniques are impressive. But even his technique will not overshadow the picture he will paint in front of us.
This first chapter includes an introduction, called a preface(vv. 1-4), to the Theophilus. Theophilus is likely a Roman official who has provided funding for Luke to write and print his Gospel account. The name itself- Theophilus, means ‘friend of God.’ We can assume that Theophilus was either a faithful Jew, or a faithful Christian, seeking an accurate account of Jesus’s life, ministry and identity.
The second part of the chapter comprises what we call the infancy narratives because it recounts the story of both John the Baptist’s (vv. 5-25) and Jesus’s Birth (vv.26-38). We know enough about John to know that he is the Forerunner to Jesus. John is the last of the Prophets who not only foretell the coming of the Messiah, Jesus, but also points him out when at least he arrives. We then get the announcement of Jesus’s birth. There is a perfect literary balance here, that is capped off by Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist.
Following these announcements we have the famous Canticles of Mark and Zechariah, John’s father. Mary’s Canticle (vv. 46-55) is called the Magnificat because its first words, when translated from English into Latin, are “My soul magnifies the Lord.” Similarily, Zechariah’s Canticle is called the Benedictus because its first word in both English and Latin is, “Blessed be the Lord.” Finally, each Canticle, or song, is followed up by the birth of John and Jesus (although in reverse order).
The detail in this chapter is overwhelming. The prophecies made about John the Baptist and then those made of Jesus by the angel Gabriel to Mark could fill reams of paper. Suffice it hear to say that for Luke, and for us, this is where it all begins- with the birth of this child to a lowly maiden from a small town in the middle of the mid-eastern desert.
Point for Prayer
“Lord God, revealer of mysteries, you opened the hearts of those lovely couples- Zechariah and Elizabeth, Joseph and Mary- to the wonder of births that beckoned the immediate coming of salvation to this world. Your Spirit moved them to respond with faith. Send your Spirit to us to quicken our faith as well” (25).
(The Points for Prayer this time will all come from Father Alfred McBride’s book called The Human Face of Jesus: Meditation and Commentary on the Gospel of Luke. The book was published by Our Sunday Visitor in 1992. The citation at the end of each Point for Prayer cites the page number on which the prayer appears.)