Dr. Luke was a practicing physician, a prudent man — and his Christmas story is sober truth. It is sobering truth as well. For it says that approximately 2,000 years ago, on days that were otherwise inconspicuous, in an obscure sliver of the globe three angelic visitations occurred, each announcing the coming of the Savior of the world. The first visitation was to an old priest named Zacharias (Luke 1:5-22), the second to a young virgin named Mary (1:26-38), the third to a group of humble shepherds (2:8-20).
As we might expect with sudden visits from angels, the recipients in each instance were initially frightened out of their wits (Luke 1:12, 29; 2:9). Each time, the angel immediately reassured, “Do not be afraid” (1:13, 30; 2:10). In each case the angel brought good news that God was fulfilling his ancient promises to save his people — not only his people who were Jews, but also “his people” found among all the nations of the world (1:14,17; 32-33; 2:10-11; compare Luke 1:55, 73; 2:32 with Gen. 12:3).
Reactions differed to these angelic announcements. Zacharias disbelieved and was struck mute, but later believed (Luke 1:18-22, 63-64). Mary believed, and offered herself to God (1:38). The shepherds believed, and went to worship the Christ-child (2:15-16). Meanwhile, Caesar ruled in Rome and Herod held court in Jerusalem. For the moment, the rest of the world went about its business, unaware that anything of importance had even transpired.