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Luke 1:26-45 Study Guide: What did Mary Know?

Community Group Study Guide — What Did Mary Know?
Luke 1:26-45

Study Information:
Core to being human is having a sense of wonder and awe. We are created to be amazed and that will often lead us towards worship. As little children this part of our image bearing can easier to experience. We get overwhelmed by the experience of new things and the curiosity of our minds. Take a child to the beach where they can watch the vastness of the ocean with sand in their toes or on a ride for the first time or watch them open up a gift they’ve been longing to receive. This sense of awe and wonder is similar to our experience of worship. Wonder is when an event, experience, theological truth, gift, etc overwhelms our senses and leads us to amazement. 

As we age there is a tendency to lose this ability to be in wonder. Some of that is from cynicism from genuine hurt. We’re also bombarded with a lot of really impressive things like art, computer generated images in movies, musical experiences; this can dull us a bit. There is also the factor of repetition dulling our wonder. Children thrive with repetition and that moves them to wonder; think about how kids ask for the same story again and again. But, adults typically want something “new”. The answer is not to avoid these repetitive experiences, but to be aware and to slow down and to cultivate a sense of awe. Think about how kids approach the Christmas season compared to the average adult. You ask the average American adult about what December is like and they’ll probably say “busy.” Sure, we fill this month with good things like parties, church events, family gatherings and opportunities to serve and worship. The answer is not to cancel Christmas, but to bring to mind a need to meditate on the truth and take it in and allow it to lead you to worship. 

During this Christmas season we want to explore the wonder and awe in the Christmas story as the various characters receive this unexpected gift of the birth of Jesus. 

For this study guide we are going to explore how Mary was moved to worship at the announcement of her future son. 

How Did Mary Worship at the News of this Unexpected Gift?
Luke 1:26-27
Mary was just a normal person, kind of a nobody actually. We know that she was from a small town named Nazareth which was around 400 people at the time and kind of far from any place that was important. She was also around 13-15 years old because she was betrothed, which was an arranged engagement that took place around that age. More than that, at the time no one expected this kind of announcement. Gabriel previously announced another important birth to Elizabeth and Zechariah in Luke 1 but this was radically different. No one expected that the Messiah would come through Holy Spirit conception. Likewise, no one would have guessed that God the creator would take on material creation and unite his divine nature to a human nature in a particular person. All of this was unexpected. 

How does Mary respond with a growing faith and wonder?

First, Mary Responded Thoughtfully
Luke 1:28-31
There are 4 angelic visits in the Christmas story and each one is met with great fear from the recipient of the visit. Zechariah moves from fear to doubt, Joseph moves from determination to openness, the shepherds from fright to awe; and Mary moves past her fear to curious faith. 

Luke 1:29 tells us that Mary was “greatly troubled but tried to discern what kind of greeting this would be.” When we are afraid we typically respond with fight, flight or freeze and Mary likely did one of those things but was able to move to thoughtfully engaging with Gabriel’s appearance. The word “discern” there is the same word for making an “audit”, meaning that she wanted to assess and figure out the inputs and outputs and engage with her mind. Wonder and awe engages our mind. 

Second, Mary Questioned the Angel for Answers
Luke 1:32-38
Zechariah previously questioned Gabriel with doubt, cynicism and hardness of heart. Mary’s questions were, to quote Anselm, “faith seeking understanding.” She probed Gabriel to know what was going to happen and why. Her faith was curious and Gabriel rewarded that with answers. This promised child would be great and sent from Heaven, conceived by the Holy Spirit, and inherit the forever throne of David to lead the people of God as their king forever. Mary’s question was “how can this be? I have not known a man.” Mary gets a window into God’s hidden activity with what he has done with Elizabeth, which appeared to be unknown to Mary. The miracle God did with Elizabeth would be minuscule compared to what he’d do with Mary. The child promised to Mary would come from the Holy Spirit and would be the future king. Mary’s curious faith is welcomed and God provided answers for her to help her move to wonder and awe.

Finally, Mary Looked for Assurance
Luke 1:39-45
Gabriel told her about the miracle of Elizabeth’s new baby so Mary hurried to greet Elizabeth and as she walked into the home the baby John the Baptist leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Spirit. John the Baptist was the first person to recognize the Messiah in Mary’s womb and Elizabeth started to prophesy via the Holy Spirit about this blessed child and recognized that this future baby is her Lord (Luke 1:43). 

God was gracious to give Mary this assurance and Mary’s faith and wonder grows as she responds in worship (see Luke 1:46-55, the Magnificat).  

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:
Read Luke 1:26-38

What does it mean to be in awe and wonder? What kinds of events and situations move you to awe? Do you think it is difficult to have wonder during the Christmas season? Why?

Describe Mary’s reaction to Gabriel’s visit and how she responded. What did she learn about this future child of hers?

Read Luke 1:39-47

How does God give Mary assurance and confirmation? Why would this be needed for Mary’s faith development?

What are some ways you’re approaching this Christmas season to help be in awe and wonder of God?