December 5

A Historical Account

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. Luke 1:1-4

We turn now to Luke, traveling companion of Paul and world-class historian. He combs the documents and interviews the witnesses. He begins where it all began.

To be a fly on the wall! Imagine his conversation with Mary: “‘A sword will pierce your soul?’ He said that? O Mary!”

As to Jesus’ resurrection, you could have the “where were you when?” conversation on any street corner in Jerusalem.

Credentialed historians charge Luke with “habitual accuracy.” He perfectly captures the atmosphere of a Jerusalem, Ephesus, or Philippi. What he gets right about the fluid politics of Rome in particular times and places is, by all accounts, astonishing.

Although he didn’t have to, Luke constantly wagers his reputation: “Check me on this!” he says. C. S. Lewis commented, “I’ve been reading myths all my life. This is not what they are like.”

Luke wagers everything. If his unembellished reporting is wrong in the particulars, then folks can safely dismiss him when it comes to his true subject—truth of another kind. From G. K. Chesterton: “Allow one sun in your sky, one mystery too bright to look into, and all else is lit up in that light.”

God came near. All the way down. All the way in.

“Nails, spear shall pierce him through,
the cross be borne for me, for you;
hail, hail, the Word made flesh,
the babe, the Son of Mary.” (CW 344:2)

If Christmas is a gathering storm of sadness or anxiety for you, we have much we’d love to say to you over an open gospel: the obsessive Luke, the urgent Mark, the timeless Matthew, the “open book” we call John. This is first. Your reconciliation to “God from God” and “Light from Light” is history, actual history, yet charged with the holy just the same.

At a particular time. In a particular place. Through a particular Jewish maiden.

It happened.

Lord, what a path lay ahead for you because we happened! Humanity has an ugly history. So do I. In wonder we search the record, sift the reliable facts, and find you there, the world’s Redeemer and mine, compassionate, glorious, and oh-so-real! Amen.

Rev. Dr. Mark Paustian serves Martin Luther College as a professor of English and Hebrew.