The Luke Christmas story is one of the two full-length accounts of the Nativity in the Bible. Luke’s gospel was written for a Gentile audience.
But what is the Christmas story in Luke and why is it important?
What Chapter of Luke is the Christmas Story?
Luke’s Christmas story begins in Luke 1:5 and continues through to Luke 2:40. Unlike other accounts of Jesus’s early life, Luke also gives a snapshot into His life as a preteen before giving a detailed account of John the baptist’s ministry (Luke 2:41-3:22).
Finally, Luke provides the genealogy of Christ in Luke 3:23-38 tracing His lineage all the way to Adam and then to God.
The Luke Christmas Story
The first four verses of Luke’s gospel serve as an introduction and gives the reader an explanation of why the account is being written.
Luke acknowledged that there were previous accounts of the story of Jesus, but he wanted to give an “orderly account” (Luke 1:3).
As you read the Luke Christmas story, you’ll notice that the account is very detailed and that the events seem to be reported in the sequence that they occurred.
Luke’s narrative is written to Theophilus, but it is unclear if this was an individual or a general greeting as the name means “friend of God”.
Regardless of the case, right from the beginning, Luke wanted his reader to know that God was heavily involved in the birth of His Son through the working of the Holy Spirit.
1. The Holy Spirit and Zacharias
The Luke Christmas story began in the Temple (Luke 1:5-25). Zacharias, the priest had been fulfilling his assignment to burn incense before the Lord when he was visited by the angel Gabriel.
Gabriel tells Zacharias that his greatest desire would be fulfilled: he was going to be a father. Understandably, Zacharias was shocked because he and his wife were old.
Gabriel tells him that his son will be filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb and that during his ministry, he would also be filled with God’s spirit.
In response to Zacharias’ doubtful response, Gabriel demonstrates the power of God by rendering him mute until the child’s birth.
When Zacharias leaves the temple and is unable to speak, the people who were outside perceived that something supernatural had occurred while he had been inside.
As promised, the power of God becomes evident in Zacharias’ life when his wife Elizabeth became pregnant despite her advanced years.
2. The Holy Spirit and Mary
The second part of Luke’s Christmas story (Luke 1:26-38) focuses on Mary’s immaculate conception.
Six months later, God once again sends the angel Gabriel on a holy mission. This time, he was sent to a virgin named Mary who lived in the city of Nazareth.
The angel tells Mary that she will become the mother of the Lord. While Mary was betrothed to Joseph, they were not yet married and the union had not been consummated. Mary wanted to know how she would become a mother when she was not engaging in the activity that typically led to that sort of thing. To which the angel replied,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:35)
Gabriel then tells Mary about Elizabeth’s miraculous conception as a way to remind her of the awesome power of God (Luke 1:36-37).
3. The Holy Spirit and Elizabeth
Elizabeth’s second encounter with the Holy Spirit occurs in Luke 1:39-45. According to the Luke Christmas story, when Mary visited Elizabeth, the baby in her womb “leaped for joy” (Luke 1:41).
Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and was able to perceive that Mary was enceinte with the Son of God. Under the power of the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth blesses Mary and the child she was carrying.
4. The Holy Spirit and the Power of God
Luke 1:46-55 is often called Mary’s Song. In it, Mary gives glory to God and talks about His might and power. Like so many other parts of the Luke Christmas story, the reader is given evidence of God’s power.
5. The Holy Spirit and Zacharias – Part 2
Luke’s Christmas story began with Zacharias’ encounter with the Holy Spirit. But God had further use for Zacharias. Elizabeth has her baby and eight days later, it’s time for the circumcision and naming.
Her neighbors who had gathered to celebrate with her wanted to name the child Zacharias after his father. This name was rejected by Elizabeth who had been given the child’s name from God.
Zacharias is called in, probably to speak sense into Elizabeth (or at least to override her name choice). But to the surprise of the people, Zacharias confirms that the child should be called John.
Immediately, his tongue is loosened and he regains his ability to speak. Zacharias praises God and begins to prophesy (Luke 1:57-79).
6. The Holy Spirit and John
The Luke Christmas story offers a single verse about the young John,
So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel (Luke 1:80 NKJV).
Yet, even here we can see the power of the Holy Spirit. Luke will later go into more details about how the Holy Spirit worked through John (Luke 3:1-20). But it is evident from this verse that even as a child, the Lord was with John.
7. The Holy Spirit and the Census
I know, we don’t often think about the Holy Spirit at work in the requirement that the people of Israel return to their cities for a census. But, Who else could it be?
It had been prophesied centuries before that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). It was therefore necessary for the couple to have a reason to travel about 80 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem when Mary was heavily pregnant.
The census provided a reason for them to have to make what would have been a long and arduous trip. While in Bethlehem, Mary has her baby in a manger and wraps Him in swaddling cloths (Luke 2:1-7).
The Heavenly Host and the Shepherds
The next section of the Luke Christmas story which is found in Luke 2:8-20 doesn’t specifically reference the Holy Spirit but the power of God is manifested.
An angel appears before a group of shepherds and announces the birth of Jesus, their long-awaited Messiah. In a short while, the heavens are filled with angels giving glory to God.
The shepherds go to see the newborn babe and come away marveling at the power and glory of God.
8. The Holy Spirit and Simeon
Luke’s Christmas story shows evidence of the Holy Spirit at the circumcision of Jesus. While they were in the Temple performing the required rites, they met Simeon. Simeon is described as a just man who was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 2:25).
He is inspired by the Holy Spirit to visit the Temple at just the right time to see Jesus. Simeon had been told that he wouldn’t die until he had seen the Messiah.
After Simeon sees Jesus, he blesses the family and prophesies about the ministry and death of Christ (Luke 2:21-35).
9. The Holy Spirit and Anna
The second encounter in the Temple was with Anna, the prophetess (Luke 2:36-38).
When Anna saw baby Jesus, she recognized Him as the Messiah and gave glory to God. Anna was able to tell those who looked forward to the redemption of Jerusalem that the time was at hand.
10. The Holy Spirit and Jesus
The Luke Christmas story ends with the return of the family to Nazareth (Luke 2:39-40). In one short verse, we see evidence that the Holy Spirit abided with the young Jesus.
And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him (Luke 2:30).
What is the Difference Between Matthew and Luke’s Nativity Story?
Now maybe you’ve read both accounts of the Nativity and wonder why there are two accounts and if there’s a difference between the two.
The Luke Christmas story emphasizes the power of God and the involvement of the Holy Spirit in the birth of Jesus. Luke’s account is detailed and is told in the order it happened.
Luke’s Christmas story offers evidence that Jesus is the Son of God and that God was very involved in the fulfillment of the prophecies related to the Messiah.
Matthew’s version of the Christmas story seeks to establish Jesus as a descendant of Abraham and David. Mathew wanted his readers to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that Jesus was the Messiah.
Though there are differences in the approach that the authors took to present the narratives, we should read them as two parts of a whole. The stories were inspired by the Holy Spirit to complement each other and to edify the reader.
It is in that light that we should look at the two accounts of the Nativity.
How the Luke Christmas Story Affects Us
The Holy Spirit should be an integral part of a believer’s life. It is the Holy Spirit who gives us the ability to accomplish the tasks God has given us and we should not underestimate His importance.
Similarly, the power of God is made evident in every aspect of life. As believers, we need to open our eyes to see the power of God at work and to allow the Holy Spirit to work within us.
You may also like:
- The Matthew Christmas Story