The Gospel of Luke
Luke’s Gospel is an attempt, in his own words, to put in a place “an orderly account” of the birth, ministry, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Luke wrote his Gospel primarily for a Gentile audience and focuses on the traditionally marginalized and neglected groups in First Century Mediterranean societies. Thus Luke’s Gospel is full of references to women, children, the sick, the poor and rejected people groups like the Samaritans.
This special and caring focus on the neglected and rejected also features in Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus. Luke’s birth narrative is the longest out of all of the four Gospels and gives special attention to the role of the Holy Spirit and to the women in the story. Here the angel appears to Mary (not to Joseph) and it is Elizabeth and then later again Mary that each has words of praise and blessings recorded. Luke in his human focus, records the “homeless” status of Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem, the special care given to the baby Jesus as he is born and how a lowly feeding troth becomes a crib.
As if to further emphasize this consistent focus of the poor and the rejected of society, the angels appear to shepherds in Luke’s account, not to the rich, privileged and powerful wise men as in Matthew’s account. It is the ordinary shepherds that witness this glorious event and became the first messengers of God’s peace and goodwill towards men on earth.
The beautiful birth narrative of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel illustrates the complete kenotic act of God in Jesus, born amongst the poor and rejected, bringing good tidings of peace and goodwill to all.
The Gospel of John
The Gospel of John, possible the last of the Gospel to be produced, records the birth of Jesus in heavenly, if not spiritual terms and language. This Gospel, written by the disciple that experienced such love from Jesus that he identifies himself as the one loved by Jesus, present his narrative of the birth of Jesus as a second “Genesis account”.
For John, this birth started in Heaven: Jesus, the Word was in the beginning and was God. All that is created was created through Him. John then describes the birth of Jesus with powerful language: “…and the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us”. John writing to Greek-speaking Gentiles across the Roman Empire explains that in Jesus, the Word becomes flesh and chooses to dwell with us and thus we all have been witnesses of His glory which is full of grace and truth.
John’s Gospel focuses on the Divine attributes of Jesus. John purposefully leaves out any mention of Mary, Joseph and all the other characters that Matthew and Luke mentions in their birth narratives. John clearly communicates that this birth is the most significant event in the history of the world. God became flesh and so is shining His light in darkness, an event that mirrors the creation of the heavens and earth.
Summary – Four Gospels
The four Gospels in the New Testament present four unique and yet complimentary pictures of Jesus — and this is evident in the way they record the birth of Jesus: Matthew presents Jesus as the King of the Jews worthy of obedience and worship; Luke shows a humane Savior that brings good tidings and liberation to the poor, neglected and marginalized; Mark present Jesus as Lord that serves in secret and thus shows a new way, free from the fight for supremacy and status; and finally, John presents Jesus as God, who comes as the Word become flesh and this shines in the darkness to bring a new beginning in this world.
May we use this advent season and time of celebration to rediscover the powerful birth narratives in the Gospels of the New Testament.