Four Bible studies about the birth of Jesus...
Christmas comes from Christ-Mass which means recognition of, the worship of, the adoration of the Messiah! Holiday is the abbreviation of holy-day. And for those of us who worship the Saviour it is indeed a Holy Day. BUT…
In a society where many people believe only in themselves, the message of Christmas—a virgin giving birth, a Saviour, the promise of salvation—usually causes raised eyebrows, and sarcastic comments like “What did you say??”
What Did You Say??
The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.”
I am always amazed at Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel. She seems calm, cool and collected, but I can easily imagine another, different response...
“WHAT did you say??!”
“WHAT do you mean, a baby?!”
“WHAT will people say?!”
“WHAT about Joseph?!”
“WHAT kind of nonsense is this?!”
“WHAT on earth??!!?”
Read Luke 1:26-38.
Think about Mary’s response to the angel. (verses 29, 34 & 38).
How do you think you might have responded in the same situation?
Describe how you think Mary might have felt about the angel’s announcement…
Record three details about Mary revealed in the text by her responses.
Which of these characteristics would you like to develop in your own life?
How might you do this?
How did God favour Mary (verses 28 - 31)?
How does God favour you?
How does God’s favour remove fear?
Think about the statement “…with God, nothing will be impossible” (verse 37).
What might have seemed impossible about Mary’s situation?
What are some things in your life that seemed impossible to you?
How could God make possible what seemed impossible to you?
Did You Say?
“DID you say baby??”
“You meant after Joseph and I are married, DIDN’T you??”
“DO you have the right person??”
“DID you get your messages mixed up??”
Mary’s response could have been any or all of these things, but instead her answer was, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” What incredible faith she must have had, to accept so willingly God’s plan, when it was certain to provoke powerful reaction from her friends, family and fiancé.
1. Take a look at some other responses to the same news that Mary received, the news of a Saviour.
Compare how each of these people responded to the announcement of the coming Messiah.
Joseph (read Matthew 1. 18-25)
How did he respond? How else might he have responded?
What does his response demonstrate about his faith?
Herod (read Matthew 2. 3-8, 13-16)
How did he respond? What does he do about the situation?
Wise Men (read Matthew 2. 1-2, 9-12)
How did they respond? What kind of faith did they have?
2. Read Luke 1. 5-25. Compare the responses Mary and Zachariah made to the angel.
Half of this first chapter of Luke is spent telling the story of John’s conception and birth.
What is significant about this event in the Christmas story?
What was the purpose of John’s ministry?
How did John prepare people for the coming of the Lord?
How can we continue to “make ready for the Lord a people prepared?” (Be as specific as you can).
3. Which of the responses you have looked at most accurately reflects the response of our world to the message of Messiah?
4. List 5 of your friends or family. Next to their names write the response of each to the message of Christ’s coming.
“YOU say? Who are YOU??”
“What do YOU know about me??”
“Why should I care what YOU say??”
“Are YOU crazy??!”
Of all the responses so far, only Zachariah came close to challenging the authority of God’s messenger Gabriel. (“How can I be sure of this?” Luke 1:18). People in today’s world consistently challenge the authority of things they are told. Gabriel’s response to Zachariah is helpful for modern day Christians to remember: “I have been sent to speak to you and tell you this good news.” Like Gabriel, we have been sent to tell others in our world about the Good News of Christ’s birth, death and resurrection (Read John 3:16-17). Like Gabriel, we have no credibility of our own when people ask “What did you say?”, but we do speak with the assurance of God’s credibility. And with God, nothing is impossible!!
1. Take a look at what the Bible says about who Jesus is, and by what authority He speaks.
Read Luke 1:32-35.
What throne is referred to in verse 32?
What does it mean when it says Jesus will reign over the house of Jacob (verse 33)?
2. Gabriel promised Mary that Jesus would be great.If you were to describe Jesus as great, which three moments from His ministry would you choose to illustrate that greatness?
Do we understand the word “great” the same way that it is used in Scripture?
3. Who do people say that Jesus is? Read Matthew 16:13.
Who does the world say that He is?
- the media? _______________________________________________
- education? _______________________________________________
- politicians? _______________________________________________
- the church? _______________________________________________
“SAY, this is a joke, right??”
“SAY that again!!”
Mary’s response to the news from the angel showed none of this sort of disbelief. Instead, she sang a beautiful, very personal testimony of her love and thankfulness to God. It is called “The Magnificat.” In this song of praise it is evident Mary understood just who Jesus was. He was the long-awaited Messiah, the One to redeem the world from its sin. Mary’s wonder at this, and gratitude for God’s goodness is an encouraging reminder to Christians today.
Read the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55)
1. Define the following phrases, and think about how the concepts might be true in your life:
“...my soul magnifies the Lord…” (vs 46)
”...spirit rejoices...” (vs 47)
“...scattered the proud in the imagination of their heart…” (vs 51)
2. Which part of Mary’s song is closest to your experience?
3. Mary could have become rather proud of the fact God had found favour with her. Instead, she reflects God’s goodness and greatness.
Write down your own personal “Magnificat”—a song of praise to God reflecting thanksgiving, His graciousness and His gift of Jesus to you.
What Did You Say??
According to religious sociologists, “Christmas without Christ” is here to stay. As we move into the 21st century, Christmas will retain its standing as a popular statutory holiday and party season, and as the major commercial market of the year (40% of annual sales happen at Christmas time). Commercialism will increase, but the traditional (sometimes token) recognition of its reason will decrease. Institutions such as public schools and governments will largely abandon nativity scenes and other Christmas observances in the name of religious freedom and non-harassment of non-Christians.
In the middle of all this, those who proclaim the message of Christ may hear a lot of “What did you say?” The responses by Mary and many others to the angel's message may provide some insight into how to cope with such skepticism—by faith and the unshakable belief that with God (and only with Him), nothing is impossible.
1. Have you and your family been influenced by the commercialism attached to Christmas?
In what ways?
What things about your celebration of this season would you like to change?
How can we as Christians keep Jesus as the centre of our Christmas celebration?
How can we help others to do the same?
2. How will you respond this year if someone asks you “What did you say??”
3. Think of someone you know who may be celebrating a Christ-less Christmas. Pray for that person.
Pray for the opportunity to share your own “Magnificat.”
Share these ideas with others in your group as you share the wonder and joy of Jesus' birth with the world around you.