Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We have St. Luke to thank for the third gospel, and for the most detailed account of the Christmas story. It is St. Luke who tells us of the birth of John the Baptist, the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the nativity in Bethlehem with the shepherds and angels.
Who was St. Luke and where did he get his information? St. Luke was a physician and a traveling companion of St. Paul. We believe he may have been a Gentile convert to Judaism because his writings are clearly an attempt to convey the gospel message to non-Jews. As he was a missionary colleague of St. Paul – whose mission was to the Gentiles – this detail fits the larger story.
St. Luke does not pretend to have been a firsthand eyewitness of the gospel events, but he would have known many who were. In his travels with St. Paul, Luke would have known Peter and the other apostles. Scholars believe that St. Luke had access to St. Mark’s gospel because a number of the stories and sayings are almost word for word the same as Mark’s account. However, there are other stories and sayings in Luke’s gospel that do not appear in either Mark or Matthew. The nativity stories I mentioned above, for instance, are only recorded in Luke’s gospel. Therefore, St. Luke must have had other sources in addition to Mark’s gospel. He would have gathered up other eyewitness accounts, and most interestingly, we must ask where he got the information about the birth of Jesus.
Ancient tradition says St. Luke received this information from the Blessed Virgin herself and one ancient tradition says Luke was also an artist and painted a portrait of Mary. This is why he is sometimes portrayed as an artist. It is more likely that his “portrait” of the Virgin is the one we read about in his gospel account. Where and when did he interview the Blessed Virgin? It could have been during his travels with St. Paul. Traditions say the Blessed Virgin accompanied St. John in his missionary efforts and that they settled for a time in the city of Ephesus. Did St. Paul and Luke visit with St. John and the Blessed Virgin during their travels? If they did, St. Luke did not record in the Acts of the Apostles such a visit during their time in Ephesus.
We can speculate about these details, but what we can say for sure is that St. Luke’s gospel must have been composed in the 50’s—about 25 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, and if he did not know and speak with the Blessed Virgin personally, he must have been close to other friends and family members in order to record such intimate details of the birth of the Savior.