Sunday, December 20th, 2015

Advent // Week 4
Advent is all about Jesus. He came 2,000 years ago to seek and save the lost. He has called the church into that same mission.
As we focus in during this season on His first coming, may we grow in our expectancy of His second coming.
  1. Read all of Luke 1. Gabriel announces some astounding facts to Zechariah about his son who is to be born (versus 11-17). Do you find yourself sympathetic or critical of Zechariah’s response of unbelief (versus 18-22)?
  2. The visit to her cousin Elizabeth bolsters Mary’s faith for the stupendous event to come. As expressed in her song of response, what kind of God does she believe in (versus 46-55)?
  3. In Zechariah’s inspired prophecy he sees (1) the great acts that God’s Redeemer will do (versus 68-75), and (2) his child’s unique relation to this Redeemer (versus 76-79). Suppose you were one of Zechariah’s neighbors or relatives listening to him. Which part would have stirred you as a devout Jew? Why?
  4. The nativity story is very familiar in our minds, but sometimes myth clouds our understanding. Read Luke 2:1-21 and try to read it with fresh eyes. Joseph was returning to his small hometown, where his family was from and where everybody knew everybody. How long were Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem (Read Luke 2:6)? Days, weeks, months? Mary gave birth to Jesus in a manger because there was no room for them in the…what? Inn? The Greek word isĀ kataluma, meaning “guest room” (this is the same word used in Luke 22:11 and Mark 14:14). Ancient Jewish homes often had mangers on the lower floor where animals came and went and a guest room in the upper level. We don’t know for certain, but does the idea that Jesus was born surrounded by family change the Christmas story for you? In what ways?
  5. Jerusalem had a great need for supplies of animals to be sold and used in the Temple sacrifices. This meant quite a lot of flocks were needed. However, in Jesus’ day, shepherds were looked down upon as second-class citizens, unwashed and of low stature, a little better than dung sweepers and tax collectors (Zephaniah uses shepherds to symbolize judgement and desolation…(see Zep 2:6)) Why do the heavenly host, in their magnificent glory and splendor, go to shepherds to announce the coming of the Messiah? Why not prophets, kings, rulers or rabbis? Discuss the restraint of God in this. Discuss how God has power but often doesn’t use it in the ways we might think.
  6. Think of yourself as a devout Jew who is waiting for God to send a Messiah, to restore Israel and lay low the other nations of the Earth. How does Luke 2:1 hit you? Luke wrote this story to people who would be very familiar with what year it was. Why did he list the pagan rulers?