Luke 1:26-33 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.”
Mary was from a very small town in Galilee called Nazareth. Nazareth was so insignificant that it is not even mentioned in rabbinic writings of the time (the Talmud) and it is only spoken of disparagingly in the Gospel of John (”Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”). Not only was Mary from a seemingly insignificant place, she was also quite young. In Roman law, the minimum age of marriage for girls was 10, and Jewish practices were similar. Marriage generally took place before a girl reached 12 and a half. That God would call Mary from such a place at such a young age is remarkable.
In addition, the historical and cultural background regarding betrothal customs sheds additional light on Mary’s circumstances. Although she was not yet married, Mary was betrothed. According to ancient customs, the marriage would have been arranged by her father. She would live at home for a year after her betrothal. Then the groom would come to take her to his home, and the wedding celebration would last for an entire week. Legally, the marriage was sealed after the engagement. Thus, if Joseph had died before the wedding, Mary would have been considered a widow.
Immediately, the angel reassures Mary with the all-important promise that she had found favor with God. Then came the staggering announcement: She – Mary – was going to have a baby, and he would be the Son of God! What an astonishing message for Mary to process! This pivotal moment changed everything about Mary’s hopes, dreams and future.
Adapted from the New Interpreters Study Bible, p. 1853 and the New Interpreters Bible Commentary, Vol IX, p. 51.
Questions about the Scripture
1. Why do you think God called such a young teenage girl from such an insignificant place to play such a pivotal role in God’s great mission of hope? What does this imply about God? What does this imply about Mary?
2. Mary’s life-changing, hope-changing moment involved an encounter with an angel. Think about a moment that changed your life trajectory in a positive way. Who did it involve? What was the change about? Did you, like Mary, experience fear (v. 29,30)? How did you respond to this moment?
3. Using holy imagination, imagine the Angel Gabriel visiting you, saying to you, “Do not be afraid, _______ (your name), for you have found favor with God. And now, you will ______________…” How might Gabriel finish that sentence?
4. God called Mary to mother and mentor Jesus. What might God be calling you to do that is bigger (and more enduring) than your current temporal plans? Who might God be calling you to mentor or invest in? Pray for one another as you share your 2.0 hopes.
Community & Personal Action Items
Over the course of this week together, let’s challenge ourselves to do one (or both) of the following actions1.
1. Pray Out Loud. Throughout this first week of Advent, meditate on words of HOPE! Literally speak messages of hope over yourself in the name of Jesus. Try the following phrases… I have hope! My hope is in the Lord! I will be strong and wait on the Lord. I trust God with my life and the life of my family. Speak these words every day. Hope Is Real. It comes from God! He has placed it in your heart. Speak it out and watch what God will do for you.
2. Remember.Memorize the following verse this week. Then discuss its meaning and application with your family, friends, or small group.
MEMORY VERSE: 13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. — Romans 15:13 (NIV)