WEEK 1: MARY – AN ENCOUNTER WITH GOD
AN ALL-AGE SERVICE
Luke 1 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qq7NFiZL6ak
Mary visits Elizabeth: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WLF3cwXfGc
LET’S HONOUR MARY LIKE SHE SHOULD BE HONOURED
It is said that on October 31st 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of Wittenberg Castle church thus heralding the start of the Protestant reformation and its split from the Roman Catholic church.
Since that time the Protestants have distanced themselves from what they saw as the extremes of Catholic doctrine – none more hated than the veneration that the Roman Catholic church held for the Virgin Mary who was raised to the status of “Mother of God”, almost divine herself and the one through whom mere mortals would go in order to gain favour with her Son, Jesus Christ.
Sadly, in its desire to rid itself of false doctrine, the Protestant churches have lost a lot of the wonder surrounding this wonderful woman – the one who was chosen to be the mother of Jesus, the one who was said to be “highly favoured” (Luke 1: 28) and of whom it was said “blessed are you among women” (Luke 1: 42), and who herself prophesied “From now on all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1: 48).
Let us restore Mary to her rightful position of great honour – and let us learn from her about ourselves.
MARY IS “HIGHLY FAVOURED” IN HER ENCOUNTER WITH GOD
- What is your favourite food?
- What is your favourite toy?
- What is your favourite book?
- What is your favourite TV programme?
- What do you think the words “favoured” and “favourite” mean?
- Does “highly favoured” mean that God loves Mary more than me?
- Why was Mary “highly favoured”?
Throughout much of church history it was suggested that the angel was telling Mary that she was God’s favourite and thus that she is “better” than you and me.
However, a study of Scripture belies this: for just a cursory glance shows that the following Old Testament characters ALL had the favour of God: Abel, Noah, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, Samuel, Jehoahaz, Nehemiah, and, indeed, the whole Jewish nation.
Job 34: 19 speaks of a God “who shows no partiality to princes and does not favour the rich over the poor, for they are all the work of his hands”
Psalm 5: 12 declares: “Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favour as with a shield.”
Proverbs 3: 34 adds: “He mocks proud mockers but shows favour to the humble and oppressed.”
Psalm 30: 5 promises that:”his anger lasts only a moment, but his favour lasts a lifetime”
Isaiah 61: 2 prophecies that Jesus will come: “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour”
Then the angels in Luke 2: 14 declare: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.” – and that’s us!
Paul concludes in Romans 2: 11 that: “God does not show favouritism”.
So, yes, Mary is “highly favoured” but this does not mean that she is God’s favourite or more than a mere mortal like us. She was a young woman honoured by God to be the mother of His Son, Jesus. What a blessed “favour” this was on her!
But, the good news is that we too are highly favoured by God who sent His Son for us.
GOD WANTS TO HAVE AN ENCOUNTER WITH YOU THIS CHRISTMAS
- What was Mary doing when she had her encounter with the angel?
- What might she have been doing do you think?
- When was a time when YOU had an encounter with God?
- Could it happen again?
- What would you have to do to have an encounter with God?
God loves to have encounters with us – because He loves to be in close relationship with us. Sometimes these encounters are dramatic – like when Mary was visited by the angel. But more often than not these encounters are very gentle – a time spent in prayer or praise when we really feel His presence close to us.
God wants to have an encounter with us this Christmas.
GOD WANTS OTHERS TO ENCOUNTER HIM THROUGH YOU
Have a look at the film clip of the visit of Mary to her cousin, Elizabeth – who had a most dramatic encounter with God through Mary – when the baby in her womb leapt for joy!
When we have had a true encounter with God we WILL be different and people will see God in us. This is what we have been talking about as we studied the “fruit of the Spirit”. And a really good example of this is seen in the testimony of Lee Strobel (see separate document).
So, this Christmas let us:
- Honour Mary, the mother of Jesus and learn from her
- Seek, and expect, to have an encounter with Jesus this Christmas time
- Allow others to have an encounter with God through being with us