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Week 2 – January 13-17:
Monday – Luke 1:39-56: Today’s reading brings the two previous passages together into one event. Mary’s visit brought a reaction from John in Elizabeth’s womb. Through the Holy Spirit (cf. Luke 1:15, 41), the Messiah’s forerunner gives testimony to the Messiah even before he was born. Elizabeth praises Mary for filling an important role in the history of salvation (vv. 42-45). Mary replies to Elizabeth with an inspired utterance. Her hymn of praise in vv. 46-55 is known as the Magnificat, (Latin for “Magnifies”). There are strong echoes of Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel 2:1-10 in Mary’s words. A striking feature of this hymn is the fact that Mary views God as overthrowing established authorities in favor of the weak and poor.
Respond to God’s deeds of salvation for you in the model of Mary and Elizabeth. Write a few lines praising God (or copy a few lines from your favorite hymn). Share your words with a friend or post them on social media so that God may be praised by others.
Tuesday – Luke 1:57-66: The next two readings complete the birth narrative of John. In keeping with Gabriel’s words (Luke 1:14), the surprising news of John’s birth gladdens the hearts of Zechariah and Elizabeth’s neighbors. Next, the focus of the narrative turns to the circumcision ceremony that occurred eight days after John’s birth (cf. Genesis 17:12; Leviticus 12:3). It’s during this time that a male child receives his name. Those present (the priests performing the ceremony perhaps?) want to name the child “Zachariah after his father” (v. 59). However, when the parents demand the child be named “John” (v. 60, 63; cf. Luke 1:13) Zachariah’s “mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God” (v. 64; Luke 1:20).
Note, that three times Luke described people’s spontaneous reactions to the happenings surrounding John’s birth (vv. 58, 63b, 65-66). What do you think might be Luke’s purpose in repeating this fact?
Wednesday – Luke 1:67-80: Often referred to as the Benedictus (Latin for “Blessed”) the prophecy of Zacharias ends the birth narrative of John. The one who disbelieved (Luke 1:20) now believes, and his first response is to praise God. His prophecy (v. 67) has two sections. The first part (vv. 68-75), set in past tense, declares God’s faithfulness to the covenant with Abraham. The second part (vv. 76-79), set in the future, foretells the redemption promises to Israel that are signified in the birth of John.
For what character qualities and acts does Zechariah praise God? In what way(s) might this prayer influence your own prayers to God?
Thursday – Matthew 1:18-25: Matthew tells the story of the birth of Jesus from the standpoint of Joseph rather than Mary, as Luke does. In his narrative of events, Matthew simply states that Mary became pregnant due to activity of the Holy Spirit, then goes on to tell what Joseph does. When Mary was “found to be with child” (v. 18) that was not Joseph’s, it was expected that he would divorce her (even an engagement required a formal divorce). Nevertheless, an angelic visitor tells him not to do so because all this has happened to fulfill the prophesy of Isaiah 7:14.
These extraordinary events bring Joseph face to face with a difficult decision. What personal qualities does he display in the way he handles the situation?
Friday – Luke 2:1-7: Luke anchors Jesus’ birth in history, in the powerful world of Rome. Our Savior’s advent is not a myth, but rather it is a record of divine activity in historical time. “In those days” (v. 1), God used a Roman emperor’s decree to fulfill the plan He announced in Micah 5:2. Because Joseph was of the lineage of David, he was required to register for the new tax at his ancestral home of Bethlehem (cf. 1 Samuel 17:12). It’s popular to imagine Mary arriving into the town, riding a donkey while in active labor, or at the very least having contractions. Luke however, clearly implies that the family had been in there for some time, “While they were there,” he states, “the time came for her to give birth” (v. 6). In the crowded confines of the village, the only comfortable place to lay the newborn Messiah is a “manger” (v. 7) the lowly feed trough of cattle, sheep, and goats.
Why do you think God had His Son born in the circumstances described in 2:7, rather than in a royal or at least a comfortable household? (consider: 2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:1-10)