12-9-18 A Mary Christmas – The Path to Peace

kthomasCommunity Study

Scripture
Luke 1:26-38  (NRSV)

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

 

Context

In response to this angelic announcement, Mary asks a question reminiscent of Zechariah’s query, “How can this be?” She had not had sexual relations with a man. But whereas Zechariah earlier had asked Gabriel for proof (Luke 1:18), Mary is asking about method. Gabriel’s response emphasizes that the baby would be born by the power of God. The child, therefore, would be God’s child, and he would be called the Son of God.  Luke carefully picks words that don’t have sexual overtones. His account isn’t like Greek or Roman stories in which the gods have sex with women.

Gabriel’s parting words ring with reassurance: “Nothing will be impossible with God.” A barren woman can bear a child. A virgin can conceive. The Lord can enter into human history as a child. From a tomb can come resurrection, and the Holy Spirit can empower the church for its worldwide mission. It is a promise in the future tense: With God nothing will be impossible.

The conclusion to this scene wraps the mantle of Hannah around Mary as she echoes the words of her Old Testament predecessor: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (v. 38; cf. 1 Sam 1:18). Throughout the Gospel of Luke, Mary is portrayed in a positive light as one obedient to the Lord (1:39-56; 2:34, 51).

This ‘annunciation’ would not have been complete without Mary’s trusting, obedient response. Mary had been chosen, “favored,” to have an important part in God’s plan to bring salvation to God’s people, but it is unthinkable that God would have forced Mary to have the child against her will. Mary is an important example, therefore, of one who is obedient to God even at great risk to self.

– Adapted from the New Interpreters Bible Commentary, Vol IX, p. 51-52 and CEB Study Bible, NT p. 106.

 

Questions about the Scripture

1. Earlier Zechariah (Luke 1:13-20) was incredulous about God answering his prayers and giving he and Elizabeth a child in their old age! Mary, in contrast, is confused about how the miracle will come about (asking for clarification), but apparently she does not doubt what God can do.  Regarding faith in God’s miraculous power, do you tend to be more like Zechariah (wanting proof) or Mary (trusting that God will come through)?

2. The last words of Gabriel to Mary were “for nothing will be impossible for God.” If you were in Mary’s place, what impact do you think these words would have had on you?  Have you ever faced a seemingly impossible situation, and yet somehow God brought you through it?  If so, share with your group.

3. Throughout the Bible, God calls many persons. Moses famously said “Lord, send someone else”
(Ex 4:13).  Jeremiah initially balked, saying “I’m only a child!” (Jeremiah 1: 6).  Yet young Mary has a difference response – “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”  Regarding God’s call, are you more likely to respond in fear, offering excuses, or are you more likely to respond in faith?  What can we learn from Mary’s faithful response to help us overcome our hesitation and fear?

4. God calls people (like Mary – Luke 1) and God also calls communities (see Revelation 2-3).  What do you think God is calling our faith community to be as we prepare to enter our 140th year?  Close by praying for our church to be faithful to God’s call as a “Servant of the Lord” community.

 

Community & Personal Action Items

Over the course of this week together, let’s challenge ourselves to do one (or both) of the following actions:

1. Try Obedience.  Take a page out of Mary’s playbook this week, offering your obedience to God in all things, including  work, faith, and relationships.  There is no doubt that God calls each of us to a higher, Kingdom purpose even in the midst of seemingly mundane routines.  Look for little opportunities and pray that God will show you where to act, then listen with confidence for His answer and respond.

2. Remember. Memorize the following verse this week.  Then discuss its meaning and application with your family, friends, or small group.

MEMORY VERSE:  38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” — Luke 1:38a