Joy to the World
These questions are meant to be a choose-your-own-adventure. That is, use what you like. Skip what you don’t. And add to it in any way you see fit.
- If cost is no issue, what do you really want for Christmas this year?
- Which do you enjoy more – giving gifts or receiving gifts?
Your Prayer Has Been Heard
Read Luke 1.5-25 (This is a longer passage to read aloud together. It just might be well worth the time.)
5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”
21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”
- Zechariah &Elizabeth are childless. Chances are they have been married for close to 40 years. This isn’t an easy place to be for anyone who wants kids, but given the time and culture, what might this experience have been like for them? Their emotional well-being? Their spiritual well-being?
- Right below the surface, this seems to be a story about hope. Gabriel’s first words to Zechariah – “Do not be afraid; your prayer has been heard.” Knowing that God is listening to your prayers…what is it about that that gives us hope?
- What do you think of Zechariah’s reaction to Gabriel’s news? Are you surprised? Do you think you would have reacted differently?
- Look again at verse 25. Elizabeth’s words here are quite powerful. What is your reaction to her words? “The Lord has done this for me.”
His Name is John
Read Luke 1.57-66
57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.
59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”
61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”
62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.
- The name John means “God is gracious.” Why is this so fitting to this story?
- We all have seasons when we ask – Does God care? We need help or intervention. Perhaps we’ve even been close to despair.
- How has God given you hope in such moments?
- Are you in a similar place now? What prayer do you need God to hear?
- Who do you know that is in need of hope? How might God be asking you to respond?