From Caroline Dixon
In chapters 1 and 2, Luke has already been careful to place his story of Jesus in the appropriate historical context. John the Baptist's birth is "in the time of Herod king of Judea" (1:5). Jesus' earthly parents must travel to Bethlehem because Caesar Agustus issued a degree "while Quirinus was governor of Syria" (2:2). In each instance, Luke places the miraculous events -- a barren woman concieving! the son of God being born! -- in a specific time and place, which his early readers would have recognized.
The third chapter of Luke begins with the longest historical setup so far in the gospel, mentioning no fewer than six political rulers of the time:
"In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herodtetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness."
As a modern reader, I still notice every time that the Bible speaks about supernatural events while being careful to testify exactly when they happened, as if the writer wants us to know that these were true historic events. Luke doesn't change tone between telling us a particular historic context (which could be verified) and telling us about a supernatural event which occurred then/there (which we take on faith). The word of God came to John in the wilderness -- an amazing event! But, Luke is not telling a legend; he is seeking to give "an orderly account" (1:3) of true events.
So, as the chapter proceeds to the baptism of Jesus, with the Holy Spirit descending like an embodied dove and the voice of God being audibly heard from the heavens, Luke maintains his orderly tone of a historic account. He closes the chapter with a long genealogy of Jesus's ancestry, even back to the Father himself. And we are reminded that the history of God's people has the miraculous woven in it at every generation.
I'm an international student advisor at a Christian college in the area. I live and work on the North Shore, which happens to be where I grew up, as well. I love seeing the ocean during the week and the city every Sunday. I'm grateful for a patient God and a long time to figure it all out.