In their new book Don’t Miss This in the New Testament, Emily Belle Freeman and David Butler dive into one verse in each chapter of the New Testament. Here are the authors’ unique and meaningful insights on three verses from the Christmas story.
Luke 1:38: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.”
I love weddings. I love the gathering of longtime friends, the banquet tables of the very best finger foods, and, of course, the dancing. Weddings are everything happy packed into one fantastical evening. One of my most favorite parts is the bride and groom running out to their car through a line of sparklers and cheers. I am smiling just thinking of it.
Sometimes, and perhaps oddly, when I read Luke 1, I think about the wedding Mary may have been looking forward to. She was engaged to be married to Joseph the carpenter. Perhaps she dreamed of what their wedding and eventual life would look like together—to live and raise a family in their hometown of Nazareth. But all of that changed when the angel Gabriel came with his announcement that she would be the mother of the “Son of the Highest.” Her whole life would now be different. It wouldn’t look like anything she may have thought. No wedding No feast. No celebration. There was the potential of punishment, the whole town gossiping behind her back, and the possibility of never being married or taken care of. She would eventually give birth in a Cave, escape as a refugee into Egypt, and one day find herself at the foot of a cross.
This is the life she would live if she said yes to the angel. My heart surges when I read her words. “Behold the handmaid of the Lord” (Luke 1:38). In other words—I will do whatever He asks. I am His. And she did. Her whole life. And yes, she experienced the heartbreak and sorrow of that choice, but she also lived the thrill, the wonder, and the sparkle of it too.
Luke 2:15: “The shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem.”
From the very moment scripture whispers the idea of Jesus being born through Mary, a profound lesson is taught. Mary could have carried that baby entirely by herself. Delivered Him too. It had been done before by single mothers who were left to face the unfairness of life alone. But God gave Mary Joseph. He sent someone so she wouldn’t travel alone. On the night of the birth, Joseph and Mary found an innkeeper who directed them to a small cave. Immediately after the baby was born, shepherds arrived: “Let us now go” (Luke 2:15; emphasis added). Soon after, wise men would follow.
I don’t think I’ve ever noticed it before, how the message at the root of the Christmas story is that nobody comes alone. Beginning with Mary. It’s still true today.
My neighbor stopped by one day. She’d been praying for her sister for years, pleading that somehow she would find her way back to church. To Him. Then a new gal started working at her sister’s place of work. After a couple of days, she told my friend’s sister she wanted to be friends. “You won’t believe this,” my neighbor said with a twinkle in her eye, “but she invited her to church last weekend. Our Church. And my sister took her girls and went! Do you believe that? She went!” Then with eyes sparkling she told me of her instant response: Thank you, Jesus, for sending someone.”
Someone is lonely today. Carrying the weight of the world. Wondering if anyone will remember them. Jesus will know. Ask Him if He might help you to see where you are needed. He will answer. It’s what He does. Sends someone.
—Emily Belle Freeman
Matthew 2:9: “Lo, the star … went before them.”
Whenever [my wife] Jenny and I travel to a new place, we always try to find a Nativity scene to buy and bring home as a souvenir. When choosing, I always try to pick one that includes the star. It’s one of my favorite parts—the star that led the wise men to Jesus.
The star was the sign that gave the wise men direction on their long journey to Jesus. They had no idea where to go; they just knew to follow the star. I am so comforted by the line, “And, lo, the star, which they saw in the cast, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was” (Matthew 2:9). The star went before them. They didn’t know all the details of their journey, but they could always look up and see the star. God had laid it out before them. There was preparation for their journey. A path planned out. God was steps ahead of them, leading them.
Soon after the wise men visited Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, the family was directed in a dream to escape into Egypt. Where would they live? How long would they be there? How would they make money? When I think about this surprise change for them, I wonder if they gained courage from the wise men—a group of people who didn’t know all the details of their journey but knew they were being led. The wise men had brought gifts too—gold, frankincense, and myrrh—gifts that would perhaps fund the unexpected journey. Maybe Joseph and Mary would look at the gifts of the wise men and see them as a star. Evidence that the Lord was preparing for them and was laying out the path ahead of where they would go.
Start your 2023 study of the New Testament right with Don’t Miss This in the New Testament, available at Deseret Book. More information below:
Paired with short, devotional-style lessons, their love for the scriptures and thought-provoking questions will lead you to a more meaningful study of the New Testament and vibrant discussions with your family and friends. With just one short devotional at a time, you’ll complement your Come, Follow Me study, discover additional stories and insights, and explore a timely theme of deliverance.