This year I got talked into letting my home be on the “Holiday Home Tour” to help a local children’s center.
I protested, “But my home isn’t that grand,
and I don’t go all out decorating at Christmas!”
They persuaded me that was okay — they were interested in different philosophies about Christmas, and mine could be the value of simplicity.
And so I agreed, explaining on the brochure
that simplicity was okay,
for after all,
the King of kings was born in a manger.
That may be just a very good excuse, but honestly,
when you prayerfully consider what matters most,
a lot can go so that He doesn’t get crowded out.
This Advent we’re going to immerse ourselves in the prayers of Christmas:
Elizabeth’s Spirit-led Prophecy over Mary;
Simeon’s Dedication and Prophecy;
and on Christmas Eve: The Angels’ Song of Praise!
This will be a fresh way to stay close to the Lord this Advent
and to experience the wisdom & power we need
to be what He calls us to be in this world.
This week we will consider Elizabeth,
the woman God chose to be the mentor of Mary.
What I see in Elizabeth is surrender. She faced great pain in her life, surrendered to God’s will, and then, was used so mightily of Him to mentor another woman who would experience trials and sorrow from a most mysterious God.
We’ll look at Elizabeth’s journey and prayer this week.
But first, let me tell you a story.
Last week I had the privilege of speaking to widows in Minneapolis, preparing them for the upcoming holiday season — often a particularly hard time for new widows.The ministry that invited me is called “Widow’s Might,” and its co-founders are David Thielman and Ginger Ewing. David is an endearing man who surrendered to what he could not stop thinking about: widows and their need for help. God prepared him for this calling through pain.
David’s mother and father had eight children and had just moved to a new city when David’s father was diagnosed with lung cancer and was gone in six weeks. David was twenty-three, a brand new Christian, and felt called to help his mother. She was untrained in a career and still had young children at home. David kept making the four and a half hour trip to see her and help her. He saw there was really no ministry out there for widows.
Years later his younger sister lost her husband suddenly, and again turned to David. Again, David was pierced with the need of some kind of ministry for widows.
As David drove me from the airport to my hotel, I questioned him on how God led him into this. He said, “I began to wake up every day thinking about what the Scripture said about caring for widows — and why wasn’t anyone doing anything? I couldn’t stop thinking about it — it was the clothes I was wearing.”
I smiled, suspecting what happened next.
He smiled back. “Yes, God impressed on my heart: ‘Why not you?'”
So one morning David got on his knees and surrendered. When he told his wife she was surprised yet supportive. David kept asking God for a plan, but it wasn’t until two years later when he was at a meeting with Ginger Ewing that the pieces began to fall together. Ginger was a financial planner and just “happened” to mention that a large percentage of her clients were widows. David leaned over and said, “We need to talk.”
Together they mapped out a plan for bringing widows together to help each other, and to be inspired by speakers who had walked that lonely road. David told me that sometimes the local church may not be supportive of a leading you have, but if you just do it, you’ll be surprised at how many from the invisible Church will come alongside.
I’ve heard the same kind of thinking from my friend Linda concerning prison ministry. When we surrender to God’s nudging, and just do it, He will provide, if not from the local church, from the invisible Church.
Oh what can happen when we simply surrender to God!
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
2. God promises to give us wisdom when we ask. Sometime today ask Him for wisdom on how you will approach this Advent. Then share what He shows you.
3. Share a time when your surrendered to God’s nudging and what happened as a result.
Monday-Tuesday: The Background Story
4. What do you know about Elizabeth from Luke 1:5-7?
5. Challenge Question: What can you read between the lines, or learn theologically about these two”b” words that describe Elizabeth: blameless & barren?
6. How might Elizabeth’s trust in trial have prepared her to be a mentor to Mary?
Others in Scripture, when faced with barrenness, resorted to polygamy. But Elizabeth and Zechariah chose to surrender to God. I believe that led to their great calling to be the parents to John the Baptist and mentors to Mary.
7. We will study Zechariah more carefully when we look at his prayer, but for now, briefly summarize what happened in Luke 1:8-23.
8. In Luke 1:24-25 what does Elizabeth do (and why, do you think) and how does her heart respond?
9. We will look at Mary more carefully next week, but summarize what happens in Luke 1:26-38.
10. Read Luke 1:39-40
A. Check a Bible map to see how far Mary walked or rode a donkey.
B. What do you think propelled her?
C. What do you think her thoughts were?
Wednesday-Friday: The Prophetic Prayer of Elizabeth
My friend Vicki, who says is a “prodigal daughter” who came home a few years ago, is thrilled at the discoveries she is now making in Scripture. Raised Catholic, she often said the “Hail Mary,” which begins, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.” Vicki was delighted to find this was a God-given prayer of Elizabeth!
Watch this and then comment on if you think it matches Scripture or not.
10. What did you like or not like in the above?
11. Read Luke 1:41-45 (Elizabeth’s prophetic prayer)
A. What happened to Elizabeth when she heard Mary’s greeting? Significance?
B. How did she know Mary was pregnant with the Messiah?
C. How do you think hearing this made Mary feel and why?
D. What does this tell you about God?
E. What does Elizabeth say in verse 43?
Had Elizabeth not been surrendered to God, she could have been jealous of Mary. For she was just carrying John the Baptist, and Mary was carrying the Messiah. But it is my theory that surrender leads to experiencing the love and presence of God, so you can rejoice and not begrudge the blessings God bestows upon on another. Miss Potter is one of my favorite movies — a true story. Beatrix Potter and her friend Millie had decided to be old maids together for life, when Millie’s brother proposes to Beatrix. Watch this scene.
12. What comments do you have on the above? If a sister in Christ is greatly blessed in a field in which you excel or desire to excel, can you rejoice with her? Why or why not?
13. Can you think of a time when your surrendered to God, and then experienced His presence, or joy, or unfolding plan? If so share.
14. Remembering that Elizabeth’s prayer was a prophecy given to her by God, what was God saying to Mary in Elizabeth’s closing sentence? And what does this say to you?
15. When Mary appeared at Elizabeth’s door, do you think Elizabeth sensed a calling from God? If so, why and what?
16. How do you respond to interruptions?
17. What is your take-a-way and why?