I. The infancy narratives in the Gospel according to Luke describe the births of John the Baptist and Jesus, comparing and contrasting them in the context of presenting God's love for all peoples and the subtle, but revolutionary nature of His kingdom.

1. The two come together in the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth.

D. Thus, the first four verses of the Gospel according to Luke, at one level, reflect a classic Greco-Roman historian's approach of interviewing witnesses and organizing data in a clear, organized fashion. On the other hand, the very similarity of style makes this Gospel stand in stark contrast to the worship of power and wealth that would commonly be the theme of Greco-Roman historians. ("Of men and arms I sing," begins Virgil's Aeneid.)

II. The Annunciation to Zechariah begins the age of the Messiah.

D. The angel's message to Zechariah tells him that he would be the father of the long awaited prophet who would prepare the way of the Lord.

E. Zechariah's request for proof is answered, albeit in a surprising way.

III. The Annunciation to Mary is more surprising and subtle, reflecting the idea that God does speak in clear ways, but even more in unexpected times.

B. Gabriel's message to Mary and Mary's response reflect a glory greater than that given to Zechariah.

3. He term "the Lord is with you" reflects the name "Emmanuel", or "God is with us."

C. Mary is troubled, not so much because of the angel, but rather because of the message. She seems to address the angel in rather familiar terms.

D. The angel gives the name Jesus, from Joshua, which means "God saves." Joshua, because of his faith and courage, was able to lead the Chosen People into the Promised Land. The angel also refers to the prophesies of a just king ruling forever. E.g., Isaiah 11:1-9; Jer. 23:2-6.

E. Mary's response "How will this be?" implies a confidence that Gabriel's words would be fulfilled, but a desire for understanding. It also indicates a vow of virginity; for otherwise the answer would be obvious.

IV. The Visitation joins Mary and Elizabeth, and thus Jesus and John the Baptist together in preparation for their glorious missions.

A. Mary's vocation leads immediately to charity. She is concerned first for her cousin Elizabeth, with no jealousy that Elizabeth is more highly honored by the world.

C. Mary then gives her great Canticle, which has three overall sections

1. Verses 46-49 thank God for His blessing to her.

2. Verses 50-53 describes God's providence, which turns the world upside down.

3. Verses 54-55 describe God's fulfillment of His promises to His people.

E. The first section of the canticle reflects joy and humility.

4. There is a dramatic description of the reversal of fortune that God will bring about.

V. The birth of John the Baptist then prepares the way for the birth of Jesus Christ.

3. The next verses bless God for setting His people free so that they may worship Him.

E. The Gospel then introduces the theme of the desert, where the people of God had been purified long ago in their passage to the Promised Land. Here, John will go again, now to prepare the final purification before Jesus begins the new and glorious era.