People are welcome to attend our The Journey class on Wed at 9:45 or Sunday at 11:15, or online.
The Journey: Walking the Road to Bethlehem — Online Class #1—based on the series by The Reverend Adam Hamilton. These questions reflect the reading in Chapter 1.
This class has many of the same questions I am asking in my weekly sessions—I appreciate any responses you want to share.
Week One: Mary of Nazareth
1. Opening Prayer
Merciful God, You sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation.
Give us the grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may celebrate aright the commemoration of the Nativity, and may await with joy the coming glory of Jesus Christ our redeemer;
Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2. Opening Activity
In your travels this week ask 3 friends what their home town was like. Did they grow up in the city where you live now? Is your community a place where may new people have moved in recently?
How did growing up in your home town affect you? Do you have a regional accent, opinions, etc? Did anything from your home town hold you back or help you? Or, if you moved frequently, did it affect you positively or negatively having no real home town?
3. Important insights from either the reading of Chapter 1 or the Video
- (If you have access to the video, watch it.) It was filmed by the Reverend Adam Hamilton at biblically and archeologically important sites in Israel.
- It shows how most travel was by foot was over very rugged terrain.
- It is important to remember how the source of fresh water was crucial.
- What do you think of the space in which Mary would have lived?
- Nazareth is a humble village compared to the Roman city of Sepphoris, with its cobbled streets, elaborate mosaics
- Nazareth got water from an ancient spring which is still running.
- Modern Nazareth is larger and more cosmopolitan today than back then.
- Elaborate churches and shrines have been built over place believed to by Mary’s home.
- People probably lived in caves in ancient Nazareth.
- There is a strong Roman influence in Sepphoris, and to a lesser degree in ancient Nazareth.
- Town site required fresh water to survive.
- Caves, both natural and hand-hewn provided protection from elements and natural cooling during hot summers
- Mary’s life in Nazareth is very simple
- Reality is that God choosing humble young woman in humble community to bear Christ Child.
- Names and places and people are important during this time
4. Bible Reading (Luke 1:26-38) (If you have others willing to read with you—take parts and read out loud. If not read some other translations. This is NIV.)
Narrator: In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said,
Gabriel: “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”
Narrator: But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her,
Gabriel: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Narrator: Mary said to the angel,
Mary: “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”
Narrator: The angel said to her,
Gabriel: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”
Narrator: Then Mary said,
Mary: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
Narrator: Then the angel departed from her.
- What in the reading surprised you or was new?
- In what ways did the new revelations help you to understand God’s choosing Mary?
- What new dimension of Mary emerges if we think about her home town and culture?
- How do you think Mary and others in her town were affected by living so close to wealthy Roman city—and so far from the center of her own culture, namely Jerusalem?
- What was—and continues to be—the significance of the name Nazareth? If the town name means branch or shoot, how does this illuminate God’s choice of Nazareth as the home of the one who is to bear the Prince of Peace?
Men: What would it be like to walk in Joseph’s sandals?
Women: What would it be like to be Mary and have the angel tell you, that you were going to have a child?
All: How does the story fit with your beliefs? Is there grace in our community that accepts some people have doubts or opinions contrary to other members of the group?
- How would you define the term “Angel?”
- Do you believe in angels?
- Do you think there are times when you have failed to recognize angels who have appeared in your life?
- How might things have turned out differently if you had recognized them?
- Have you ever felt like you (intentionally or unintentionally) were an angel in someone’s life?
- How do you feel about this possibility?
- How did the person respond?
6. Wrapping up
- How does the annunciation provide a backdrop for the entire Advent and Christmas Story?
- Could Mary have refused?
- Could Moses or David or Gideon or Paul or even Jesus have said no to God?
- Can we say no to God?
- Do we? How?
- If we do, what is God’s response?
- What can we learn from Mary’s Complete willingness to serve as God called her to serve—even in the stern retribution from the community?
7. Write a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the incarnation.