Here we are, Christmas week,
when we remember the most amazing miracle of all:
God came to be with us in the flesh.
Together we’ll help each other stay centered in the hustle and bustle of this busy week,
to ponder, as Mary did, what it all means.
I’ve mined treasures for each day, keeping it brief, and including the special video (thanks to Laura, Rebecca, and David!) from Laura-Dancer to John’s prologue.
Today, we’ll contemplate that moment when Gabriel came to Mary.
“Quite possibly,” Martin Luther wrote, “Mary was doing the housework when the angel Gabriel came to her. Angels prefer to come to people as they are fulfilling
their calling and discharging their office.”
Darrell Bock, who has an excellent two volume commentary on Luke (It received book of the year from Christianity Today the year it came out) sheds light through his deep understanding of Greek. He comments on that moment when Gabriel first came and said:
Greetings, O Favored One, the Lord is with you.
“Gabriel only wants to encourage Mary that the Lord will be with her in the events he is about to reveal….Mary is about to receive freely the special favor of God.” Two Greek words in the greeting repeat that thought: She is favored. He is with her. The Greek, Bock explains, is not saying she is deserving, but rather, she is about to be the object of special grace. That is important, not only because it refutes the worship of Mary, but because it is a reminder of how God works, on the basis of His goodness, rather than ours. (That is not to say that Mary was not an exceptionally godly woman — everything we see about her shows that she was.) Also, it is a promise that He will be with her in what is to come, which implies it may be hard.
Again, so like our God.
Mary ponders this greeting.
What is the Lord going to do?
Why will she need him so?
Can you even imagine the moment?
Bock says there is intense curiosity and concern expressed in the Greek word translated “perplexed or troubled.”
Then Gabriel tells her, and amazingly, she believes.
Yet she wonders how this will happen for a virgin.
“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 called holy
— the Son of God.”
Gabriel, also, in His mercy, tells her about Elizabeth. Why, do you think? My favorite movie depiction of this is Jesus of Nazareth. Watch this clip.
And this week, keep reviewing and add the passage in green.
(1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
(2) He was in the beginning with God.
(3) All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
(4) In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
(5)The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
(6) There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
(7) He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light,
that all might believe through him.
(8) He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
9. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
10. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.
12. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
13. who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
And yes, on a personal note — thank you so much for praying for my youngest, Annie, who went into labor last Sunday. Steven, named after her dad, arrived at 5:00 that evening. She didn’t have to have petosin. He is already getting lots of love from his sisters. Here he is with Lily Grace. Those of you who were with us that Easter may remember Anne was given the name early in the pregnancy for Lily — and then God surprised us by having her born on Easter Sunday. And now another very special baby — born on another Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Advent. God gave Anne the name “Steven” early in her pregnancy again. So we knew he would be a boy. Annie said, (“I can hardly believe that I, the youngest, would get to be the one to name a son after Dad!”) When I question God’s love, His being “with us” I remember things like this and repent of my forgetfulness.
What a Christmas for us — a child — a very special child — and I’m headed there! Thank you, my friends for praying, and thank you, my God, for bending down.
1. Was there anything from this familiar account, from the words of Luther or Bock, or the movie clip that arrested you and caused you to ponder. If so, what?
Monday: Work on your memory work and watch this video from Laura-Dancer. Here are Laura’s comments:
Only a few of us are trained dancers in this group, most people have not danced to any extent prior to being in the group. I am very proud of our them! It is their love of Jesus, and the willingness in their hearts to share with others that keeps them going.
This is piece is a labor of love for me! I literally wrote the scripture on our whiteboard last Christmas and meditated on it until September when we danced the piece. My partner added background music and our readers were perfect! God spent the year with me through His Word. Here are a few background stories to the moves.
As I read the bible chronologically, I realized Proverbs 8 sounded like John 1. I Believe God gave me the idea to incorporate Proverbs 8 into the piece. I broached the subject with my partner, she like the idea, and then I thought it would be pretty cool if she choreographed it because she’s more of a modern type dancer than I am. So, we had the New Testament piece choreographed more old-school, and a ballet type of dance, and the Old Testament choreographed with the new school, or more modern type of dance.
The first part. I think I said before, is swirling motion as if the galaxies and the heavens are being formed.
The devil did try to intercede many times; there was a point where we didn’t have any readers, movement wouldn’t come to mind, people couldn’t show up for rehearsals, it was really frustrating at times. My partner and I had to remain focused. I knew this was God-given.
My favorite part is, unfortunately not part of John, but that of proverbs, when the Scripture says, “and I was daily his delight rejoicing before him always rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.” It’s still about Jesus though, which is really cool to me. I want to daily be his delight! I tend to memorize things singsongy and that’s how I memorized that bit; song like.
Lastly, it was really great to dance this piece. I wish we could do it in person sometime!
2. What stood out to you from Laura’s video? Why?
3. Share any new insights that have come to you from memorizing the prologue.
Tuesday: Sometime this week, while baking or cleaning or driving — listen to this free Keller sermon: The Word Made Flesh:
In Luci Shaw’s poem Made Flesh she writes of the enormity of God being in a woman’s womb, using phrases”The Word, stern-sentenced to be nine months dumb” and “Infinity walled in a womb” She parallels His submission to the “crush and cry of birth,” to what we must surrender in order to truly experience His presence. Likewise, there is a little known and sung 2nd verse to O Come All Ye Faithful that sings about Jesus “not despising the virgin’s womb.” Listen to it here:
Another poet, John Donne, said “The whole of Christ’s life was a continual passion; others die martyrs, but Christ was born a martyr. …even in Bethlehem, where he was born…for to his tenderness then the straws were almost as sharp as the thorns after…”
4. What thoughts do you have about the above?
5. Write out this week’s memory verse.
6. Ponder this verse and explain each phrase:
who were born, not of blood
nor of the will of flesh
nor of the will of man
but of God
7. How does the fact that God chose you to be a recipient of His grace make you feel? What
are some specific ways that His Spirit living in you is changing your life?
Christmas Eve: And the Word became Flesh
6. Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing…ponder this mystery, & share your thoughts here.
7. Sing just these verses from Hark the Herald Angels privately, and in praise to the Lord, pondering the words as you sing.
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with men to dwell
Jesus, our Immanuel
Pleased as man with men to dwell
Jesus, our Immanuel
Today, I pray, will be wonderful for you — but even if there is pain and disappointment, I pray you will remember how He loves you, and that He will do all things well in His time.
I’ll close with this wonderful rendition of Mary Did You Know? I don’t even know if the singers know the Lord, but this certainly had to make them ponder.
10. Reflect on your Advent, your Christmas, and share some small or large reasons for gratitude.