STUDY | Spend the week studying Luke 1:26–56. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.
DETERMINE | Which discussion points and study questions will work best for your group.
PRAY | Pray for our pastors and this week’s message, the upcoming group time, your group members, and their openness to God’s Word.
LANDING POINT | Like angels, I worship and serve King Jesus.
Remember the 4 Rules for Small Group Discussion
- Confidentiality. What’s said in the group stays in the group.
- No cross-talk. Be considerate of others as they share. Refrain from side conversations and texting during group time.
- No fixing. We are not in the group to fix each other. Jesus does that part.
- Sharing. Be sensitive to the amount of time you share. Don’t talk too much or too little. Every person brings something valuable to the group.
As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.
THE POWER OF HIS NAME
In biblical culture names were significant. A name might refer to a child’s birth or the parents’ reaction to the child’s birth. Sometimes a name communicated a message from God or reflected an aspect of His character. Jesus’s name is the most significant name of them all. While many names and titles are used to refer to Jesus, the title “Messiah” speaks of His central role in God’s plan of salvation.
Time and time again throughout the Old Testament, Israel and its kings failed. They rebelled against God, choosing to follow after other gods. Their disobedience and unfaithfulness led to God’s judgment and the exile of the nation on more than one occasion. However, God promised to one day send a Messiah King (“anointed one”1) to save God’s people from sin and bring them back to God.
For four centuries leading up to the first Christmas God had been silent. Many wondered whether God would be true to His promise. Then God sent an angel to deliver a message of hope—The Messiah is coming to save! Mary’s response was a song of praise.
Q: Do you think names are significant today in our culture? Why or why not?
Q: What gives you confidence to trust God’s promises? What can make you doubt them?
Select 2-3 questions to discuss as a group.
A KING’S BIRTH
Six months into Elizabeth’s pregnancy with John the Baptist something happened in the small city of Nazareth in Galilee. God sent the angel Gabriel to deliver a message to Mary. When he appeared, Gabriel told her that she was favored by God. “What does that mean?” Mary wondered. Seeing that she was troubled to be talking to an angel, Gabriel told her, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. You are going to have a son, and His name will be Jesus. He will be a great King, the Son of the Most High, and He will reign on David’s throne forever.”
Mary was still confused. “How is this possible since I’m a virgin?” Gabriel smiled. “Mary,” he said, “Nothing is impossible with God. The Holy Spirit will overshadow you, and you will conceive a son. And this child will be like no other. He will be God’s Son.” Hearing this, Mary bowed before the angel and said, “I am God’s servant. Let Him do as He pleases.”
Read: Luke 1:26–56. How does Mary demonstrate faith and obedience in this story?
A SONG OF PRAISE
After this, Mary rushed to Elizabeth’s house in the hill country of Judah to tell her what had just happened. When Mary arrived, Elizabeth felt the baby inside her leap with joy. Elizabeth looked at her with delight and said, “My child just leaped inside me! Mary, you are truly blessed.” Joy and wonder filled Mary’s heart at all that was happening. Her joy overflowed in song as she praised God that, through her, He would bring the Savior, the Messiah King, into the world.
Q: What does Mary’s song reveal about the nature of God?
Q: Recall the last time joy overflowed into praise in your life. Share with the group.
WHAT DO ANGELS DO?
In addition to being messengers, angels serve God’s purposes in multiple ways.
- They are agents of God’s providence, especially as it relates to redemption (Exodus 12:23; Psalm 104:4; Hebrews 11:28).
- They support God’s people (Genesis 28:11–12), protect them (Psalm 91:11–12; Daniel 6), rescue them (Acts 5:19–20; Acts 12) and destroy Israel’s enemies (2 Kings 19:35).
- They interpret visions given to prophets (Zechariah 1:9).
- They are mediators (Acts 7:35; Galatians 3:19; Revelation 1:1; Revelation 10:1).
- They serve as examples in worship for us (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 5:11–12).2
Q: How would you summarize the role of angels in your own words?
Select 2-3 questions from this section to answer.
Today we live in a world that’s still broken and stained by sin. We see it in on the news, in our neighborhoods, in our families and in our own hearts. But, like Mary, we have all reason to hope. Jesus, the Messiah King, has come. In a weary world such as ours, the thought of King Jesus’s arrival should give us a thrill of hope.
God’s message to Mary was that the Messiah is coming to save. Jesus has come and He became king by defeating our greatest enemies—sin, Satan and death—for us. He died on a cross and rose from the dead to prove that He is the Messiah King who saves.
Today, we can celebrate the Messiah’s coming and His victory over evil. King Jesus is the Victor, and our view of the world, others and ourselves is changed when we believe that this victory is the reality we live in.
Q: Where do you see the brokenness and sinfulness of the world today? Where do you see it in your own heart?
Q: In what area of your life do you need to remember that King Jesus is your Victor?
LIVING THE GOOD NEWS
Like angels, we praise God with our worship. Reflecting on the person and work of Jesus should compel us to praise. Why? Because true love ows into praise for the object of our a ections. And there’s nothing greater that our a ections should be directed toward other than God. In the words of C. S. Lewis, “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.”3
Q: What does Lewis mean when he writes that “the delight is incomplete till it is expressed”?
Q: What’s one creative thing you can do this week to praise God?
Select 1 question from this section to ask your group.
The Messiah’s coming reminds us that God’s love moved Him to do something about the problem of sin and our helpless condition. Advent is about seeing the life and death of Jesus as the ultimate expression of God’s love for humanity. His is the kind of love that seeks the well-being of others with no strings attached.
God calls us to love others, even our enemies, the way He does. This self-giving love is powerful and is at the heart of the Christian faith. Let it flow from you this Christmas season as you receive it and share it with others.
Q: What does it mean to love “with no strings attached”? How is this loving the way God loves?
Q: Name one person who needs to feel God’s love from you this Christmas.
Spend time praising God for His love in sending His Son, Jesus the Messiah King, into the world to save it. Express your praise through words and memories from your life that recall His unchanging love and faithfulness to His promises.
Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following:
- Read Isaiah 52:13–53:12 and reflect on what this passage says about Jesus, the Messiah King.
- Ask the group to share any stories or lessons learned where they see God at work in their lives.
The Name “Jesus”
The name “Jesus” (Yeshua) means “the Lord saves.” (Matt. 1:21).4 The name was popular throughout the Old Testament and in the first century A.D.5
The Messiah as God’s Son
The term, “Son of the Most High,” is a messianic affirmation. Jesus’s divine sonship is linked to Him being the Messiah, spoken of in 2 Samuel 7:12–14 and Psalm 2:7–9. Clearly, Luke sees the Messiah’s role as one fulfilled by God’s Son and no other.6
Going Along with the Plan
Whereas Elizabeth’s pregnancy removed from her the disgrace of being a barren woman, Mary’s pregnancy would bring her disgrace because many would assume in delity on her part. Nevertheless, she submitted to God’s plan and purposes for her.7
A Promise Fulfilled
“Towards the end of Mary’s song we find the same motif we find later in [Zacharias’s] song (Luke 1:67–79). She celebrates the God who remembers his covenant. Luke has an eye on history. He sees that the birth of Jesus does not happen in a vacuum, but ‘in the fullness of time’. When Jesus is born, He is born after many promises from God. Covenants have been made between God and man. The promise that had been made to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is now coming into fullness in space and time. ‘He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful.’”8 God’s steadfast love and unchanging character make Him faithful to His promises, despite our unfaithfulness (2 Tim. 2:13).
1. In Greek, the term used for “Messiah” is Christos, which is cognate to the verb which means “to anoint.” “Christ” actually refers to Jesus’s title as the Messiah and is not His last name. Mark L. Strauss, “Messiah,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).
2. M. G. Easton, Easton’s Bible Dictionary (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1893); Steven L. Cox, “Angel,” ed. Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 66; Allen C. Myers, The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 56.
3. C. S. Lewis, Re ections On the Psalms, Reprinted. (New York: HarperOne, 2017), 111.
4. D. A. Carson, “The Gospels and Acts,” in NIV Zondervan Study Bible: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 2068.
5. Walter L. Liefeld and David W. Pao, “Luke,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition), ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, vol. 10 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), 60.
7. Trent C. Butler, Luke, vol. 3, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 12.
8. R. C. Sproul, A Walk with God: An Exposition of Luke (Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 1999), 24.