This devotional is part of the 2020 Christmas Devotional Book, “The Gift.” Access the entire devotional and download your free copy by clicking here.
Opening Act (Luke 1:5-25)
In October 2009, tens of thousands of Oklahomans descended upon the Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium for an event. Though thousands of people flock to this stadium every October, the event on October 18, 2009 was unique. On this day, the crowd was gathering NOT to watch a football game but to watch a rock and roll show. U2 had decided to make a stop on their 360 tour in Norman . . . and I was lucky enough to be in attendance.
The 360 concert was quite a spectacle. Playing in nearly 100,000 seat stadiums around the country, U2 had created a unique stage they called “the claw” which would sit on about the 50 yard line, with the crowd surrounding them in every direction. The concert was to begin at 7:00 PM, but before U2 would take the stage, the audience had to be prepared.
For their Norman show, U2 had invited the Black Eyed Peas to be their opening act. The first hour of the concert was given to this hip hop mega-band. From the moment they took the stage, we had a feeling that that night was gonna be a good night (sorry I could not resist.)
The job of the opening act is simple . . . showcase their talent in front of a massive audience, while prepping the people for the main show. The Black Eyed Peas did a fine job of this. The volume of their music took our ears right up to the Edge. Their energy got all of us up on our feet and moving around. Their enthusiasm for the night was infectious. All this set the environment for when U2 finally came on stage and elevated us to the place “where the streets have no name.”
I was thinking about that today as I read Luke chapter 1. Luke 1 begins the story of Jesus with a tale of an angelic announcement and miraculous birth. However, the first announcement and birth referenced in Luke 1 is NOT about Jesus . . . it is about Jesus’ cousin John.
Luke’s Gospel begins the story of Jesus with the birth of John. As a matter of fact, all four Gospels begin the story of Jesus with John the Baptist. Do you find that odd? Only one Gospel mentions the shepherds. One Gospel mentions the Magi. One Gospel tells Joseph’s back story. One Gospel mentions Mary’s story. No Gospels mention the Little Drummer Boy, yet EVERY Gospel mentions John the Baptist. This indicates to us that there is something important about John’s life. But what is it?
The Gospel accounts all tell us the same story. John came in the “spirit of Elijah” as the “opening act” to Jesus of Nazareth. Before Jesus would take the stage and reconcile us to God, John came to help get us ready.
John was to showcase God’s Truth in front of a large audience, while prepping the people for the Main Show. His message of repentance helped remind people of their need that Jesus would meet. The water baptism he offered, gave people a chance to pull out of their orbit around self-righteous religion, and seek new life in God. John talked about Messiah coming soon, recreating or reinforcing the true hope for the people of Israel. John did this job, and he did it very well. When Jesus finally “takes the stage” after His baptism in the Jordan River, God’s people were more ready to respond based on the preparation they received from the opening act. As Luke 1:17 says, John was “to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
This Christmas, as you flip through the first few pages of each Gospel to get to the headlining event, don’t just skip over the story of John the Baptist. God wanted every heart to prepare room for Messiah, so He sent John ahead to make those arrangements.
Think about your own life. If you are in a relationship with Christ today, no doubt you too had an opening act that God used in your life to prepare you for Jesus. God uses a variety of things/people/experiences to prepare us for Him. For the Israelites of the first century, John was the opening act . . . who did God use in your life to prepare the way for Jesus?
Suggested song for today: “Joy Has Dawned”
In this Christmas devotional, there is a song referenced for each day. All these songs, are included in a playlist found on Apple Music and Spotify at the following links: