Where Mark starts rightaway with the adult Jesus, Luke adds a prologue - the angel Gabriel appearing to Zacharias the priest, whose wife Elisabeth (Mary's cousin) is barren, so you know what comes next: yep, she will conceive a son, to be called John. (We later learn that this is John the Baptist.) Zacharias, who doesn't believe the angel, is struck dumb until his son's birth, so he can't even tell anyone. When Elisabeth is six months pregnant, Gabriel is sent to Nazareth, quasi verbatim repeating the announcement (god did that a lot, insemination of barren women), this time to Mary, who - although "espoused" to Joseph (no mention of any carpentry, by the way) - was still a virgin. (And you really believe that? Wedding night = sex. Maybe Joseph was a eunuch?) She even asks the angel how this can be, as she "knows" no man. Gabriel helpfully explains, and adds that Elisabeth got the same treatment. Mary sets out rightaway to visit her cousin; when fetus John hears her voice, he "leaped" in his mother's womb for joy. No seriously, 6-month old unborns do this all the time. After staying for a mere 3 months (family visits really counted then), she returns home. (Just when Elisabeth is about to give birth and really could use a hand, in other words. Gee, thanks.) Baby John is born, and neighbours & family want to call him Zacharias, like his dad, but the parents insist on John. (Divine decree!) Dad is sure his son will make a fine prophet. (John is Jesus' 2nd degree cousin, but as it is from the mothers' side, this probably doesn't count.)
When Augustus, the first Roman Ceasar, passes a decree that "all the world (?) should be taxed" (2:1), this apparently meant that every man had to travel to his city of origin. (More revenue, I guess. If you live abroad nowadays, you still might have to pay taxes in your home country.) Joseph, who lives in Galilee, has to return to Judah because he was "of the house and lineage of David" (2:4), so he saddles up and travels with his heavily pregnant wife? friend? lover? fiancée? to his native Bethlehem, the "city of David". (I thought that was Jerusalem... so what about this hamlet then?) After they arrive Mary gives birth, but has to put baby Jesus in a manger because "there was no room for them in the inn". (2:7) WTF - he has to travel back all the way to his family's village only to end up sleeping in a stable? Doesn't the dude have some family there? (Counting on the innkeeper to create some space for a woman in labour would be too much to hope for.) More nonsense, and the main reason everyone's harassed by those sickly-sweet nativity scenes every year, including the obligatory (though unmentioned) ox & ass. (It was a stable, after all.) Gabriel, busy as always, announces the divine birth to a bunch of shepherds, who promptly go & visit the brat. (Our nativity at home also featured sheep, yes; even some shepherds, if I recall correctly.) Not a word about those three kings, by the way.
After 8 days, baby Jesus is duly circumcised, just like cousin John before. Snip snip - an endless & expanding universe and humanity's saviour needs a bit of his willy lobbed off to make him bona fide. So funny. (I can only hope it wasn't one of those creepy rabbis who perform the job with their mouth, or Jesus might have contracted some nasty VD into the bargain. I mean, what the fuck, how perverse can you be, biting/sucking off a baby's foreskin because of divine rules. Double yuck.) The happy parents then go to the temple to slaughter some pigeons to celebrate. In the temple, a certain Simeon tells them to expect great things from this baby. (They already knew that, but it's nice to have it confirmed by strangers.) A prophetess (so they exist too), Anna, who lives in the temple (what else to do, she's a 84 year old widow), also praises the child.
Possibly Luke felt that the complete lack of information about Jesus' childhood was a bit too suspect, so he added one little scene of Jesus aged 12 conversing with some "doctors" in a temple in Jerusalem. When his worried parents find him after searching for 3 days, he coolly informs them that he's just doing his "father's business" (2:49), so there's nothing to worry about. A sign of more arrogance to come.
Sadly, this is the only snapshot we have of his childhood, as we now jump to "the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Cesar" (3:1) - that would be 29 CE. John, who apparently spent all of his life in the desert so far, sets out to preach in venerable mad prophet mode, eventually pissing off Herod, the tetrarch of Galilee, who has him incarcerated and beheaded (see XLIV and XLV). Almost as an afterthought, Luke quickly adds Jesus' baptism by John and the opening of the heavens. He then lists ALL of Jesus' (actually, Joseph's) forebears, all the way to Adam, all 75 or so of them. This is obviously where all that "Young Earth Creationism" crap comes from: if there's only 75 generations between creation and christ, the world can never be billions of years old, right? Bible says so. Even taking into consideration the ludicrous lifespans of the early generations, you'll end up with an estimate of between 4.000 and 40.000 years at best. YEC loonies often stick to 6.000 because James Ussher, a 17th century bishop, painstakingly calculated that god in fact created everything in 4004 BCE - on the evening of October 22nd, to be precise. (He doesn't mention the day.) Mindboggling, innit.
We now get to the part of preachings & miracles, most of which we already encountered in Matthew and/or Mark (remember Luke is the third of the "synoptic gospels" - see XLV). As we came to expect, Luke's version sometimes differs from the other accounts though. Some of the more egregious variations:
*) Most disciples are not named; at some point he just casually refers to "the twelve".
*) There's a whole band of people travelling with Jesus, including a group of women (Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna...), which at least makes him slightly more normal than the peevish and misogynistic sectarian we encountered in Matthew & Mark.
*) Here, when his mother & family come over to visit him, he replies "My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of god, and do it", and flatly denies them entry - another nail in the coffin of the chimera of "christ the family man".
*) Perhaps getting carried away, Luke has Jesus send out not just the 12 apostles, but an additional 70 men as well, to heal, preach & perform miracles.
*) One time, Jesus stays at the house of two sisters, Martha and Mary (they were unmarried then? And he could just stay there? Interesting); Mary settles at his feet to imbibe his manly wisdom, while Martha has to work alone. When she complains, Jesus praises Mary for choosing the "good part". Typical.
*) We also get the words of the lord's prayer, "our father", here. (Luke in general has most of the "classic Jesus" bon mots; his Jesus is a lot more talkative and metaphysical. I guess this is the Jesus most people like.)
*) When a woman in the congregation praises Mary's womb and "paps" (breasts) for carrying and nurturing him, Jesus testily replies "Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of god, and keep it". (11:28) Do I detect a certain tension between him & his mom? Oedipus alert!
After spending a lot of paper & ink on assorted axioms & parables, the whole crucifixion story is treated rather succinctly, wrapping up the narrative in some 2 ½ pages. This material again overlaps mostly with Matthew & Mark, with some subtle differences. For instance, Simeon doesn't volunteer to carry the cross, but is forced by soldiers to do it. (And he was just visiting the city, the poor sod.) The crucifixion itself is a very controlled and level-headed affair, as Jesus knows it's only for show (although he does pray "in agony" in the garden of Gethsemane before), which reflects in his last words, here rendered as "father, into thy hands I commend my spirit" (23:46), certainly a far cry from the desperate "father, why hast thou forsaken me?" (So what did he "really" say? All of it. None of it. Whatever you want him to.) Also, here it is "the women" (Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary-mother-of-James and some others) who find the empty grave and talk to the angels, once again proving that the devil really is in the details.