SCRIPTURES – Isaiah 35:5-8; Colossians 4:2-15; Luke 1:1-4
Old Testament Reading Isaiah 35:5-8
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.
Epistle Reading Colossians 4:2-15
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here.
Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him), and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me. Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.
Holy Gospel Luke 1:1-4
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
“It seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” The man who wrote these words – Luke – was a highly educated Greek physician who was a convert to Christianity and became a traveling companion of the apostle Paul. He was with Paul in Rome at the end of Paul’s life, and it was possibly while there that he wrote his Gospel for the instruction of a Roman convert named Theophilus. He also wrote the book of Acts, the record of the activities of the apostles and the first Christians in the years after Christ’s ascension into heaven.
Luke wrote his Gospel “that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” He writes because we struggle with certainty and aren’t always strong and confident in our faith. Sometimes we’re uncertain because the accounts of what Jesus did and said are considered to be made up and untrue. Already in Luke’s day some said this, and it is said much more in our day.
By skeptics like Dan Brown, the author of The Da Vinci Code, which offered a factual sounding story about Jesus that contradicts what the Bible says. Even many Bible scholars say that the Gospels are fabrications. (They’re always the scholars featured in articles about Jesus in magazines.)
Our faith is also challenged when we, the followers of Jesus, seem to be treated no differently by God than are those who don’t believe in Jesus. It doesn’t seem right when you suffer a serious illness, or job loss, or financial hardships, and struggle just as much as those who aren’t Christians! Where is God for you?
If you read and take to heart what Luke writes you will see that there’s no reason to be uncertain when it comes to God: who He is; what He does; what He thinks of you and expects from you; and, what you can expect from Him.
Consider, for instance, Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus. Luke tells us why Jesus was born in Bethlehem and of what happened that night, how angels appeared in the heavens and joyfully sang praises to God. Note carefully who it those mighty and holy angels appeared to: to simple, lowly shepherds, common people whose speech undoubtedly included salty language now and then. They are blessed above all others in Israel with the news of the Savior’s birth, and they respond by running to see Him and worship Him! And then… they disappear. Luke never refers to them again; they seem to be abandoned and forgotten. So it can seem sometimes in our lives. Where is God? Why is He allowing your hardship and, it seems, forgetting about you? “To you has been born a Savior, who is Christ, the Lord. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill to men,” Luke’s angels tell us. God has sent His Son to you who, like the shepherds, seem to be forgotten and unappreciated. You are blessed in Christ! You have God’s goodwill, His favor! Heaven is open to you, and God’s angels are your servants! Believe this, regardless of what you see and how you feel, and rejoice in your Savior!
Luke also tells us more about Mary, Jesus’ mother, than does anyone else. We would think, I suppose, that, by virtue of being Jesus’ mother Mary would be more blessed than any other person; and Luke himself indicates this. “Blessed are you among women!” her cousin Elizabeth greets Mary early in her pregnancy (Luke 1:42), and Mary gushes in response, “From now on all generations will call me blessed!” (Luke 1:48) But, after the account of Jesus’ birth and one story from His childhood Luke hardly mentions Mary again. When he does, it is not at all as we would expect. Twice Luke records for us Jesus declaring that His mother has no special claim on Him. In Luke 8 Jesus is teaching in a house, and Mary and other family members can’t get in because of the crowd. When He is told she wants to see Him, Jesus says: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” Three chapters later, when a woman cries out to Jesus, “Blessed is she who bore you and nursed you!” He responds, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” From this Luke teaches us that being Christians doesn’t mean that we have some claim on God, so that He must do as we say or honor us above others. If even the mother of Jesus is treated like everyone else, then we should expect the same. People in this life and world get sick… struggle financially… lose loved ones… deal with rejection, loneliness, and feelings of abandonment… suffer because of bad decisions and actions… endure physical and mental disabilities… the list could go on and on. We should not be surprised, then, when such sufferings befall us. This does not mean that God has abandoned us or does not care! Especially at such times we need to take to heart what Jesus says: “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Keep listening, and take His words to heart. Trust in Him, and then trust that He will take care of you. For, in Jesus God is your Father! You are His precious child whom He loves. When you don’t understand things and are hurting, remember what Mary said to the angel when he told her that she, while a virgin, would become pregnant and bear the Son of God. “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said,” she replied. You who trust in her Son are no less the Lord’s servants. You are also no less blessed. Your blessings may be hidden under hardships and hurts and sorrows, but you who believe are still the blessed children of God. Hang onto this!
And then, hang onto God’s words. A doctor can only be of help if you go to him. Well, listen to and believe what the good doctor Luke tells you about Jesus! Let God minister to your soul through him. Begin today and set aside time each day – even if it’s just 15 minutes – to read one of the Gospels. Luke would be a good place to start. You will get to know your Lord Jesus better. And as you do, the Holy Spirit will minister to your soul. He will assure you of the forgiveness of your sins, no matter what they are, for Jesus has borne them all for you. He will fill you with His peace, the assurance that God is with you as your loving Father. God will give you “certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”
Finally, do not turn from the fellowship you have with your brothers and sisters in Christ, both here at church as well as during the week. So often it happens that, when struggling, you are tempted to retreat within yourself. Doubts arise and fester. “No one understands,” you think. Well, take to heart how the apostle Paul names many other people in today’s reading from his letter to the Colossians:
Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister.
Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother.
Aristarchus, his fellow prisoner.
Mark and Justus and Demas and Nympha and Luke, the beloved physician.
Paul, who wrote from prison, was helped and comforted by these friends and fellow Christians. So also you – look to your brothers and sisters in the faith for help and strength when you are in need, and be a helper yourself! God will keep you and give you a confident faith.
Thank God for St. Luke, the beloved physician, and what he teaches us through his words. Blessed are those who hear these words of God and keep them! In the name of Jesus. Amen.