The Angel's Message
- Imagine how Mary felt when the angel appeared to her.
- Sense that Jesus' coming is God's greatest gift to us.
- Join others in thanking and praising God for the gift of Jesus.
When it comes to Christmas, Nazareth gets short shrift next to Bethlehem; the annunciation stands in the shadows next to the manger. Maybe it's because Protestants tend to be a bit squeamish about how to handle Mary, the mother of our Lord (the angel's opening words to her are the same as in the famous "Hail Mary" prayer). But you can't understand Bethlehem until you first watch this amazing scene of a young girl visited by an angel.
A young girl she is. Scholars who know this period tell us that fifteen or sixteen was a common age for a girl to be betrothed. Imagine this mere girl suddenly accosted by a bright shining angel (as I imagine it), who announces that she, of all people is "highly favored"---or, to put it another way, "You're a very special girl, and the Lord has something in mind for you."
Angel visits always seem to happen before great movements of God. Just off the top of your head you can probably think of half a dozen. Angel means "messenger," and that's exactly what they do in all these cases.
In this case, the message is monumental. God is about to make his great promised move, sending his own Son as Messiah, and Mary will be the one who gives birth to him.
Read through the angel's announcement. The angel reiterates, "You have found favor with God." Make no mistake, this phrase means "God really likes you, and therefore wants to cooperate with you in the greatest invasion of all history." What an astounding thing for a young girl to hear!
As the angel continues, it's practically a mini-course in theology within three sentences: "Jesus," "Son of the Most High," "throne of David," "house of Jacob," "his kingdom will never end." All deeply important words and concepts about which volumes have been written. Add it up and it means that this promised child, this astounding event, involves the "hopes and fears of all the years," and it all comes down to this young girl God really likes in the backwater town of Nazareth.
Of course, there's the small question of how this will take place since Mary is a virgin. The angel explains it as much as possible, but one thing is clear: this is the holy One, the very Son of God. And then, echoing the words God spoke to a doubting Sarah long ago, the angel concludes, "Nothing is impossible for God."
As the eyes of all longing, hoping people throughout the ages are fixed on her, we await Mary's answer. It was an announcement, of course, but it could not happen without her consent. And she said, "Yes! Let it be to me according to your word."
Here, Mary is a picture of every believer and of the whole church. We are called to say yes to God's transforming work in our lives, and yes to the transforming work God wants to do through us.
How do you imagine Mary in this scene? Her physical demeanor, the look on her face?
Was she excited, scared, mystified, honored, or all of them together?
Have you ever felt that God had looked on you with favor, that God really liked you, as the angel announced to Mary? (Think about your baptism in the light of what God said to Jesus in his baptism in Luke 3:22.) Any time God asks us to serve him in some way is an indication of his favor toward us.
You don’t have to explain the mystery of the virgin birth. No one really can. It’s enough to say with Mary, “How can this be?” and marvel at it.
The story’s climax is not the angel’s announcement but Mary’s “Let it be.” It culminates in faith and obedience, as this young girl willingly becomes a part of the greatest story ever told. In some small way, we all confront an announcement of God’s will and purpose in our life, and are asked to consent to becoming a part of it.
As you begin this second session, welcome your kids with an air of expectancy—great things are about to happen! Greet them by name with a warm and friendly smile. As you go through the session, reinforce the habits and traditions you set last week. Then enjoy your time together as you share the love of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, with your group.
After welcoming the kids, introduce yourself again this week just to be sure that everyone knows your name too!
Use the following arrival activity to welcome your group:
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