Advent Study Session 4
Oh Holy God, you gather us again in this place to listen and to discover how to live more faithfully. May we breathe in your Spirit opening us to receive your announcements. The disruption, experienced or witnessed, makes us feel helpless, yet you invite us to renew our identity as your beloved. Let us learn from each other and let Christ, the light, illumine and guide us. Amen.
Every Advent season, many social media feeds are filled with commentary about Mary. The posts are divided between people sharing renditions of the pop carol “Mary Did You Know?” and a host of very inventive memes that all could be summed up as some version of “Of course I knew, stupid, have you actually read the Magnificat, or did you just skip down to the comments?” Did Mary know? What did Mary know?
The liberative power of God’s kin-dom is at work here, even before Mary knows anything. Mary is not forced to bear a child of promise for God and humankind; she is invited by the angel Gabriel, and she chooses. “Let it be with me according to your word.” The annunciation initiates a disruption that, in time, changes the whole world and the course of history. But before that, “the angel departed from her.”
For Mary, this pregnancy, this beginning, this hope for Israel — puts her at risk of humiliation, exclusion, rejection. Elizabeth brings her another annunciation: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord!”
As the pandemics of disease and racism remain in full force this Advent season, many of us are pondering what it means to follow through on courageous choices we have made so far. We hear the voices of Nardyne, the mother of Brishell in Trigger, and Tamika Palmer, Breonna Taylor’s mother. Like Mary, a sword has pierced their hearts … and because of the loss and the injustice they have seen, these women, and many others like them, have found their voice.
When Mary, the mother of Jesus finds her voice, the song of justice she sings comes from her own faith tradition — from the words of Hannah in the Hebrew Scriptures. Mary sings of a God who cares about those who live in poverty. She sings about God’s regard for people who suffer injustice. She sings about a God whose word and work empowers the “lowly”. She sings that, because of this God, a new day is coming, and a new world is about to be born, and she is going to show up to be a part of making it so.
Consolations & Desolations
Before we continue, and after asking such hard questions, let us pause to open ourselves up to God and experience our day thus far.
Share with each other in the group the answer to these two questions: “For what moment am I most grateful today?” And, “For what moment am I least grateful today?”
Read Luke 1:26-38
What speaks to you immediately from the text? What emotions does the text stir?
Learning About Mary
- Scholars believe that Mary of the Lukan narrative was likely between the ages of 14 and 16 when she was promised in marriage to a man named Joseph.
- This was because in this context, once a young woman came to ‘childbearing age’ and her family could provide a dowry, she was betrothed to someone who could provide for her and their future children.
- Often the man was 10 to 20 years older, someone with proven ability to work and good standing in the community.
- She is the girl/virgin of Isaiah, the poor but faithful daughter, the humble, obedient servant. She is acted upon, not an agent of her own life but this is not where the story ends.
Clip 1: The Poisoning of an American City
- How does the disruption iWhat was the result of erasing the authority of lived experience among the residents in Flint?
- What are the differences between the invitation in the text for Mary to suppress the information she received from the angel and the suppression of voices experienced in Flint?
Clip 2: Denise’s Description
- Denise describes the invalidation frequently experienced by Black women and non-binary people when it comes to story telling, how and why do you think this is the case?
- Are there ways that the increased national consciousness around systemic anti-Blackness has functioned as an invitation for our congregation? Why or why not?
Clip 3: Mothers of Gun Violence Victims
- Are there particular beliefs or values that seem to drive the mothers of gun violence victims to speak out?
- What, if any, connections can be made between the mother in this clip and Mary in the text?
Clip 4: Covid-19’s Impact
- How is the theme of “finding our voice” reflected in this clip of Lisa’s interview?
- Within the context of a community or a city like Flint, what have been some of the barriers to community members finding their voice?
- How have you as an individual/we as a group been shaped by disruption this year?
- In the face of ongoing natural and human-caused disaster, racial terror, global pandemics and ecological devastation, what do you think our invitation is today as the body of Christ?
- What can we do on an individual level? As a small group? What about as a larger community?
Lord, I pray that I would stop trying to find my identity in anything other than being Your child, a child of the King and a citizen in the Kingdom of God. Thank You for this amazing grace in my
God our Shelter, beneath the shadow of your wings hold us fast as we bow before you in grief and pain for the brokenness of our world. We are all too aware of our flawed humanity, our need for the hope of your coming: the hope that once again, as long ago, you may show up among in our cities, our neighbours and ourselves, in the grip of a global virus that stalks us invisibly, in the aftermath of fire, storm, earthquake or flood in the midst of civic unrest and social disorder, around joyful family tables and neighbourhood gatherings, in the angry streets:
Oh, show up in our midst! A stranger without privilege or place: Emmanuel, God with us.
We pray for our neighbours who struggle for justice and work to rebuild in cities torn apart, in the midst of mistrust, judgment and fear for each of them is a child made in your image.
We pray for ourselves, that this hurt will not fade from our minds before our hearts are broken open with your passion for mercy, justice and love. Restore our hope, our heart, our sense of the possibility of wholeness in your Creation.
Fill us, your wounded, willing people, with the expectation of the coming of the Prince of Peace, the hope that we might nurture the healing of the nations, and the willingness to bear the Christ-light, even in these days of shadow, that the peaceable kin-dom for which our ancestors yearned and prayed might one day, someday soon, dawn among us.
In the name of Jesus, our justice and our peace, we pray. Amen.
Session 4 of 4 in series “Annunciations: Disruption & Invitation”. The interactive Advent study series using award winning documentary resources was collated by Presbyterian Church (USA) and adapted for personal and group study at St Johns Papatoetoe.