Like most people, I love a good story, especially one that has great characters. Which is why I love the Christmas story in Luke so much, because the characters a so rich. They’re also great evangelists, which I always like to read about, because I know I fall down in that area often; I need good role models to look up to and try to emulate.
Here are some of those great characters, and what we can learn from them when it comes to evangelism.
I love the story of Zechariah at the start of Luke. What a great dramatic curtain raiser to the Gospel story. I’ve often imagined what it would be like to be sent into the most holy and sacred part of the temple (so holy I’ve heard they tied a rope to your foot so they could pull you out if you saw God and were struck dead), and there before me is a heavenly angel.
I always feel for the people in the Bible who do what I know I would do in those situations: I’d be completely incredulous. Here’s poor Zechariah, terrified, overwhelmed by fear, and every time I read about his reaction it feels to me like he gets dinged on a technicality. When the angel Gabriel tells him that he and his wife are going to have a son, Zechariah states the obvious.
“How will I know this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.”
I feel for you Zechariah; I probably would have responded the same way. But Gabriel is not amused. He tells Zechariah that because he questioned him, Zechariah will be mute until all that has been foretold actually happens.
Later, when John is born and then circumcised eight days later, the floodgates open and Zechariah pores forth with his story to the entire assembly. John will be a prophet who prepares the way before the Messiah.
In Chapter 2 we witness the great story about those lowly shepherds keeping watch over their flocks. An angel comes again, this time with an entire angelic back-up choir, to tell of the birth of Jesus. The shepherds want to see this great thing that has happened in Bethlehem, and when they do see it for themselves, they tell anyone in the community who will listen. And then they continue praising God and retelling the story through worship.
Simeon and Anna
Next we hear from Simeon, a righteous and devout man who had already been tipped off by the Holy Spirit that he would get to see the Messiah before he died. Following another nudge by the Spirit, he shows up at the Temple just in time for Jesus’ circumcision. Before the entire community he declares that this baby is indeed the Messiah.
And then immediately we read of the faithful testimony of the prophet Anna, who is at the Temple at that time and “began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.”
We are Mute, but Can Learn From These Examples
How often have I been as mute as Zechariah? In his case, he wanted to tell the story, but was forced to be silent until the right time. I have to admit, I often don’t want to tell the story of Jesus. My muteness isn’t ordained it’s self-prescribed. And my fear isn’t because I’ve seen something heavenly; it’s because I fear what others in the culture will think of me. I fear rejection by my peers. I fear I will be discounted and perhaps even discriminated against.
I want to be more like those shepherds. I want to see the great thing that has happened – is happening in my life today – and then tell everyone who will listen. I want to keep telling the story through worship. Or I want to stand before the community like Zechariah, Simeon and Anna, and share the Good News, because it really is good news. I want to be faithful to those times the Holy Spirit nudges me into action to share with others that news.
It’s worth telling and retelling the Christmas story, because it’s such an important story. Not only because it tells of the time when a poor, vulnerable baby came into this world to be her King. But because it reminds us that the story of Jesus is something truly good and worthy of sharing, and it gives us concrete examples of how to do that.
This Christmas let us tell the world a story.