Passage: Luke 1:46–1:56
Community Group Questions: Luke 1:46-55 "The Poetry of Christmas - Mary's Song"
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- Luke’s gospel contains a very ordered, researched, historical account of the birth of Jesus (see Luke 1:1-4). Along the way, Luke also includes a number of poems (see 1:46-55, 1:67-79, 2:14, and 2:29-32). In your opinion, why would Luke include these works of art? How do these poems enhance our understanding of the Christmas message?
- Luke 1:46-55 is popularly known as “The Magnificat.” The name comes from the Latin translation of the word “magnifies.” Mary wrote this poem as she reflected on the wonderous reality that the Messiah was conceived in her womb. Many scholars refer to it as an ancient “hymn,” and it may have been intended to be set to music. Take a moment to read the stories leading up to Mary’s poem, found in Luke 1:26-45. How does the larger story help us better appreciate the sense of Mary’s poem?
- In the opening line, Mary says that her soul “magnifies” the Lord. To magnify someone means to make them big with your praise – not like a microscope which makes its object appear larger than it really is, but like a telescope which magnifies its object to reveal its true majesty and glory! What attributes of God does Mary magnify in this poem? What should happen to our affection for God as we magnify him like Mary does?
- In contrast with magnifying God, Mary minimizes herself. She describes her “humble estate” in vs. 48. She also self identifies as a “servant” (slave, bondservant, handmaiden). How does this lowly and humble description of Mary square with the tendency among many people to inflate Mary to a position of near-divine status (praying to her, etc.)? What message did Mary actually intend to get across about herself?
- Mary sees God as big, and herself as small; therefore, she’s overwhelmed by God’s mercy and grace. However, many people today make themselves great, and they minimize God. When that’s the case, why does the message of Christmas become so underwhelming and boring? What is the solution to this problem?
- Verses 51-53 speak to the “counterintuitive” way God uses his mighty power. He “brings down” the proud and mighty, but “exalts” the humble and needy. Compare Mary’s words with 1 Peter 5:5b-7. Why are these words terrifying if you’re an arrogant, proud person? Why are these words especially comforting if you are weak, needy, and dependent upon God? As you honestly analyze your heart, which are you? Proud or humble?
- Verses 54-55 celebrate God’s enduring faithfulness to his promises. 2 Cor. 1:20 says that “all the promises of God find their ‘Yes’ in Christ.” Take some time as a group to share some promises from God found in Scripture that you are relying on this Christmas season.
Prayer suggestion: Use the Magnificat as a guide for your prayers. Invite each member of the group to pray over a line or two, elaborating on what they read there.