Advent: The songs of Christmas - week 2 - Mary’s song
Study: Malcolm Raby
Reading: Luke 1 v. 46-55
Sermon Date: December 9th
Can you describe a time when you had to wait for something. Was the wait enjoyable or painful? Was the wait worth it?
Mary waited for the birth of Jesus, but she also had to wait for the rest of her life as the significance of Jesus’ birth was gradually made clear to her. And as Jesus was crucified, there was Mary waiting at the foot of the cross.
Please do not slavishly follow these notes, but use them as you feel best suits your group.
Please read together LUKE 1 v. 26-38
Q.1 what would you have said in response to Gabriel’s message that you were to bear a child?
For the leader: If Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but not married, she was probably in her early teens. Pregnancy outside marriage was scorned in Jewish society at that time. The penalty of stoning was rarely used, but Mary would have become an outcast within her community and her reputation would have been shattered.
Q.2 how do you think Mary was able to say “let it be with me according to your word”?
If we look deeply into the text, we see that Mary did not simply say “That’s okay”. Her state of wondering, pondering and arguing went on for some time. The reality seems to be that Mary was “taken aback, disturbed, unnerved, anxious, troubled, (and other such emotions) by the appearance of Gabriel.” She would certainly have grasped the huge significance of being pregnant at such a time in her life.
Please read together LUKE 1 v. 39-45
Mary felt she needed to do something in response to Gabriel’s message.
Q.3 what might a modern teenager do?
Mobile phone; send a text; social media …
Mary felt she had but one option, made the relatively difficult journey to the hills of Judea where her relatives Zechariah and Elizabeth lived.
Q.4 But why them?
They would have understood Mary’s miraculous visit, think what had happened to Elizabeth. Both John and Jesus were conceived in impossible situations. Elizabeth was old and barren; Mary was young and a virgin.
Please read together LUKE 1 v. 46-55
If you are able to, then please listen to a musical version of the Magnificat after the reading.
Blessed in our culture usually means something like “a life of privilege and comfort”. This was certainly not the case for Mary. By our standards she does not look at all blessed.
Q.5 Do you agree with this assessment?
Both in Mary’s song and in Jesus’ ministry we see God who loves us as we are but does not leave us as we are. Zacchaeus (Luke 19) is a good example of this.
Q.6 Can you think of any others?
There is a huge difference between Mary’s response to Gabriel and the singing of her song of praise to God, which bubbles out with great joy.
How do you explain the difference?
Time is the obvious answer as Mary begins to understand just what is happening to her. But she is now with someone who fully understands what she is experiencing, hence Elizabeth’s blessing (verse 42).
This song of praise (“Magnificat”) has been a special expression of praise for Christians over many centuries. It contains references to another song, recorded in the Old Testament … Hannah’s song (1 Samuel 2) – “My heart exults in the Lord, my strength is exalted in my God” (verse 1).
Q.7 Do you think Mary based her song on that of Hannah’s? Does that make it less powerful?
Q.8 To what extent has Mary’s song been “fulfilled” or is it still “work in progress”?
He has brought down rulers
He has lifted up the humble
He has filled the hungry with good things
He has sent the rich empty away
You might like to use this prayer, written by Janet Morley, and based on the Magnificat:
O God, who word is fruitless
When the mighty are not put down,
The humble remain humiliated,
The hungry are not filled,
And the rich are;
Make good your word,
And begin with us.
Open our hearts and unblock our ears
To hear the voices of the poor
And share their struggle;
And send us away empty with longing
For your promise to come true
In Jesus Christ. Amen.
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my Spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.”
Take a moment in the quietness to reflect on the past week – what were the good moments? The moments that made your spirit rejoice. The moments you can thank God for.
“His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.”
Pray quietly – or aloud – for those who love and serve God throughout the world, and especially those facing difficult situations; who are under pressure from the culture around them; those who need God’s help and strength right now.
Continue praying for those situations which are a cause for concern of members of your group.
Why not try to write your own “song of praise” to God. What do you want to praise God for? What do you want to thank God for?
You might even like to share your “song” with members of the group on another occasion.
Malcolm Raby, 22/11/2018