Prepare the Way Worship Series, week 4 —WELCOME
December 23, 2018
Small Groups: From Worship To Discipleship
Fellowship —Snacks or a Meal (10 minutes with snacks; longer, obviously, if there is a meal)
Gathering Time (5-10 minutes) — In pairs or groups of three, discuss: “What are you hopes for Christmas?”
Read: Micah 5:1-5a and Luke 1:39-55
Group Dialogue (Approximately 30 minutes)
Opening Question: “Name a time you felt unwelcome.”
- Verses 47 to 55 is known as Mary’s Magnificat. Name all the actions Mary ascribes to God. [Looked with favor, v. 48; scattered the proud, v. 51; brought down powerful, v. 52, etc.]
- What emotions surface as your read the Magnificat (vv. 47-55)?
- Name all the reversals in the Magnificat. [brought down the powerful, lifted up the lowly, etc.] Why does this poem focus on reversals?
- How do the reversals in Mary’s Magnificat relate to Jesus’ life, death, and ministry? What might this say about who Jesus welcomes into the kingdom?
- How would the news from the Angel Gabriel to Mary (1:26-31) have been unwelcomed news for Mary? How would Elizabeth’s response to Mary have been welcomed?
- How have Advent practices such as prayer, waiting, and repentance contributed to a meaningful Advent season?
- (R) How do Elizabeth and Mary embody faithful discipleship? [filled with the Holy Spirit, belief in God’s promises] How do their actions help prepare the way for others?
- (R) How is God calling you to be like Elizabeth or Mary this week?
- How does the doctrine of the incarnation (see note below) reinforce the idea that welcoming others can help prepare the way of Christ in us and in others?
The Gospel of Luke is known for its unique stories of reversals. For example, A Samaritan who was thought to be the outcast becomes the hero of a parable (The Good Samaritan – Luke 10:25-37). Luke also tells numerous stories of unlikely responders to the gospel message, such as the Roman Centurion of whom Jesus declares, “Not even in Israel have I found such faith” (Luke 7:9). Mary and Elizabeth embody these themes as well. Recalling Sarai and Hannah of the Old Testament, Elizabeth is given the honor of a child, though she had been barren and was now past childbearing years. Mary being pregnant outside of wedlock would have been an enormous scandal. Yet, Mary praises God and anticipates the astonishing reversals that will come because of the mighty acts of God in Jesus in her Magnificat. We see throughout Luke’s Gospel God’s blessing and “welcome” that come in surprising ways and to unanticipated people.
The “incarnate” means “in the flesh” or even “in the meat” (think of the word “carnivore” or carne asada). The doctrine of incarnation states that the second person of the Trinity became enfleshed in Jesus of Nazareth. It is a mystery in the sense of being more than our mind can fully comprehend that the eternal Word of God took on human nature, living a full human life. Jesus was born as an infant, experienced growth and maturity, and a full range of human emotions from grief to anger. Hebrews even mentions that Jesus has been tested as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:14). Though Jesus died, he was bodily raised from the dead, ascended, and continues to reign at the right hand of the Father. When we pray, we can pray boldly, knowing the one to whom we pray can sympathize with our doubts, fears, suffering, and frustrations. Though our separation from God was due to our choices, God takes the initiative of restoring the relationship by sending the Son. This is the miracle we celebrate at Christmas. We have been made welcome by the mighty acts of God in Jesus Christ.
Prayer (10 minutes). Share prayer requests and respond appropriately.
Sending Forth (2 minutes). End by praying the following together:
Creator God, by now most have done the preparation work to celebrate with family, friends, and colleagues. Presents have been bought and wrapped, decorations are on display, and children are anticipating gifts. Help us also to do the preparation work to celebrate rightly and experience peace, hope, and joy this Christmas. Amen.
(Preparation: Make or purchase an Advent wreath. An Advent wreath contains four—usually purple—candles representing the four Sundays leading to Christmas. Many people place a white candle in the center of the wreath.)
Gather together with no distractions to light the candles on the Advent wreath and to share this time of spiritual fellowship.
First Reader: Today is the fourth Sunday in Advent. We light four candles for hope, love, joy, and peace. God helps us to wait for the arrival of Jesus, our Lord. He brings lasting peace to people everywhere.
Second Reader: Let’s listen closely to God’s word for us in our Bible passage.
Micah, chapter 5, verses 2 through 5a, says, “But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace.”
Conversation: Take turns talking about the Bible passage. What stood out for you in this passage? Why did it draw your attention? What does it mean for your life today?
Pray aloud together this Family Litany.
One: Gracious God, long ago you made the shepherd David of Bethlehem a king of Israel.
All: Thank you for raising people from small towns and big cities to follow you in faith.
One: You promised that a Son of David will be the peaceful king whose reign lasts forever.
All: At the right time, you fulfilled your promise in Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
One: Jesus is the good shepherd who peacefully feeds his flock and helps us to live in safety.